Nurith Aizenman

Just a few months ago, Tom Inglesby helped gather top officials from governments, businesses and health organizations around the world to play a kind of war game.

"It was a scenario looking at global consequences of a major new epidemic," says Inglesby, who directs the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University.

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Last fall, Félix Tshisekedi, the president of Democratic Republic of Congo, made a triumphant prediction: Before 2019 was over, the Ebola outbreak that had ravaged his country for more than a year would finally be brought to a close. Already, health workers had managed to quash the Ebola virus in all but a small set of remaining hot zones. New infections had slowed to a trickle.

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Dr. Marie-Roseline Bélizaire had just gathered the members of her Ebola response team for a morning meeting when they heard the rat-a-tat of gunfire.

As holiday donations kick off with this Giving Tuesday, we're going to bring up an aspect of contributing to charity that makes a lot of us ... uncomfortable.

We're talking about the idea that every time we divvy up our money among good causes, we're making a moral judgment: Who is most deserving of our help and which outcomes are most valuable?

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In the Democratic Republic of Congo, efforts to end an Ebola outbreak have been hampered. After a surge of violence, the World Health Organization pulled a third of their Ebola responders. NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports.

In the United States, drugmakers have flooded the market with powerful, sophisticated opioids. And that's fueled an epidemic of addiction. But across Africa many patients can't afford even mild painkillers — let alone medications to help people in extreme pain.

Uganda has come up with a solution that goes back to basics with one of the world's original painkillers: morphine.

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The work is dirty, dangerous ... and thankless.

Sanitation workers in lower income countries often endure grueling conditions to perform a service that's vital to keeping their communities healthy. Yet their suffering has largely gone ignored — even by advocates for the poor.

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Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story that was published on June 27, 2019.

At a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly this week, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stated that abortion is not an international human right.

He criticized any efforts to "promote practices like abortion in circumstances that do not enjoy international consensus."

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The doctors and nurses who work in the heart of the Ebola outbreak zone in Democratic Republic of the Congo say they've had enough. For weeks they've been subjected to threats of violence and even actual assaults. On Wednesday they gave the government an ultimatum: Improve security within one week or we'll go on strike.

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The aid group Doctors without Borders is suspending its work in the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The move comes after two separate attacks on its treatment centers there. The organization says, at best, it will be weeks before it returns.

"When I send my teams I need to be sure that they are going to come back alive," says Emmanuel Massart, the on-the-ground emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in the region. "The attacks were really, really violent."

The first took place last Sunday night.

The moment the Oscar for best documentary short was announced, Marni Sommer's email account started blowing up.

The award last Sunday night went to Period. End of Sentence, a 26-minute film that profiles women in an Indian village who band together to manufacture affordable menstrual pads.

Michel Yao says his job is a lot like being a detective.

Yao is leading the World Health Organization's on-the-ground response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And as each new person falls sick, his team must race to figure out how the person got infected.

So, Yao says, "we ask the person a series of questions."

First up: Were you in contact with any sick person who had some symptoms like bleeding or like fever? Perhaps a relative you were taking care of?

In the summer of 1985, Mike Petrelis was savoring life as young, openly gay man in New York City. He'd landed a cool job working for a film publicist who mostly handled foreign art films. He'd found an affordable apartment — not far from the gay mecca of Greenwich Village.

Then one day, Petrelis noticed a sort of blotch on his arm.

He went to a doctor, who ran a new kind of test, and gave Petrelis the verdict: "You have AIDS."

"He was saying that if I was going to be lucky I'd have six months to maybe two years of life left," recalls Petrelis.

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The government of Democratic Republic of the Congo has released a new video in its fight to end the Ebola outbreak there.

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As Ebola continues to spread through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government has been issuing daily updates. These press releases are mainly a recitation of facts and figures: The total number of confirmed cases since the outbreak was declared August 1 — 165 as of Friday. The death toll – 90 people. The number of individuals who've been given an experimental vaccine – 15,807. And a summary of the latest efforts by responders to reach affected communities.

It was the news they'd been dreading. Last week, world health officials learned that a doctor's wife had contracted Ebola. She is from Oicha, a town in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo that is surrounded by a violent insurgent militia called the Allied Democratic Forces.

Her case is one of many in an outbreak that's been ongoing since the start of August. But it was the first to be confirmed in a location that is difficult for health workers to reach because of the conflict raging in that part of the country.

A few summers ago in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, an economist named Anant Nyshadham was heading to lunch with some executives at a garment factory.

"We walked through the factory floor on the way to the canteen," he recalls. "And I thought, 'Wow, this is really hot.' "

And this is a man who grew up in the state of Georgia. "But you know, I don't think I'll ever get used to the heat and humidity [there]," he says, laughing. "And India is on a different level."

Every evening after dinner, Herman Agbavor and his 5-year-old son, Herbert, have a ritual. Little Herbert climbs into his dad's lap, unzips his book bag and they go over his kindergarten homework.

The two of them have been doing some variation of this homework routine since Herbert was 1. That's when Agbavor first enrolled the boy in preschool.

They live in a working-class neighborhood of Ghana's capital city, Accra — in a cement block apartment in a multifamily house that has a television and lots of books but no indoor plumbing.

It was one of Donald Trump's first acts as President: a Jan. 23, 2017 executive order that cuts off U.S. support to foreign groups unless they promise not to "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning." This includes providing patients with referrals or information about the procedure, even if those activities are funded by non-U.S. government sources.

Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has adopted a variant of the "Mexico City policy" — so called after the city where it was first announced. And every Democratic successor has reversed it.

The Trump administration has released its first assessment of the impact of the president's decision to reinstate the "Mexico City policy," which cuts off U.S. aid to international groups unless they promise not to provide or promote abortion, even with non-U.S. funding sources.

The review finds that so far practically all grantees have agreed to those conditions. But opponents of the policy caution that the administration's statistics offer too incomplete a picture to draw conclusions about the policy's impact.

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