Nurith Aizenman

At a conference in Brussels on Thursday, more than a dozen nations and private funders pledged a combined total of $190 million for international family planning charities that stand to lose their U.S. support as a result of President Trump's Jan. 23 executive action to block U.S. foreign aid funding of groups linked to abortion.

This week United Nations officials declared that a famine in South Sudan is growing — fueled by a deadly combination of drought and conflict. They estimate that nearly 4 million people are already struggling to get enough food. And officials expect the famine will spread to more areas in the coming months affecting an additional 1 million people.

Meanwhile the threat of famine is looming over three other countries: Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, putting a total of 1.4 million children at risk of death this year.

It's President Donald Trump's first official act on the abortion issue. On Monday, the new president signed a presidential memorandum reinstating the "Mexico City" policy — barring U.S. aid from any group that provides or "promotes" abortion overseas. The policy dates to 1984, when Ronald Reagan unveiled it at a United Nations Conference in Mexico City. The Trump version is even broader than the incarnations that previous Republican presidents have adopted.

What does this mean in practice? To help make sense of it we've put together an FAQ.

This post has been updated to include more information about the evaluation work done by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

Talking publicly about women's menstruation has long been a taboo. But in 2016 the world made big strides getting over the squeamishness. There was the Chinese swimmer at the Rio Olympics who had no qualms explaining that she was on her period after she finished a race grimacing in pain.

Is Wonder Woman being forced into early retirement?

It's come to light this week that the comic superhero's controversial tenure as the United Nations' honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be coming to a close this Friday.

It's a policy battle that has been playing out over three decades.

In 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan imposed an anti-abortion rule — known as the "Mexico City policy" after the city where he announced it. The rule blocked federal funding for international family planning charities unless they agreed not to "promote" abortion by, among other actions, providing patients with information about the procedure or referrals to providers who perform it.

Donald Trump will take office at a pivotal time for the world's neediest.

The world's wealthy countries have, since 2000, been part of a historic partnership with poor countries to eliminate poverty and roll back diseases.

It sounds like a typical melodrama of a movie — a saga about a big family with issues galore. There's the widowed grandfather who desperately misses his wife. The sensitive younger son who dreams of being a musician. And the daughter who's dipping into the family's stash of cash to pay a con artist who pretends to be a faith healer.

When Zika started spreading through Latin America earlier this year, a number of governments issued advisories recommending that women put off getting pregnant because the virus can cause severe birth defects. At the same time these countries kept in place strict laws that would prevent a woman from getting an abortion if she were already pregnant.

Evelyn Amony was just a few weeks shy of her 12th birthday when rebel soldiers from the Lord's Resistance Army abducted her from her village in Northern Uganda. It was the summer of 1994, and for the next 11 years she would endure a series of unfathomable hardships: grueling marches through the mountains during which any child soldiers who lagged behind were beaten to death as an example to the rest.

It's been a week of global powwows: the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, the G-7 Summit in Ise-Shima, Japan, and the World Health Organization's World Health Assembly in Geneva.

But if you happen to be a horse, there was really only one gathering that mattered: The annual general session in Paris of the World Organisation for Animal Health (or OIE as the body is known by its French initials).

It was a hospital — but to psychologist Inka Weissbecker it looked more like a prison. She had come to South Sudan to check out the country's only health facility for treating patients with mental illness.

"There was a hallway leading past these cells with bars on them," she recalls. "Behind one set of bars I saw a mattress covered in plastic. And on it was urine and feces — and this woman lying with her face to the wall. I don't know if she was dead or just sleeping. Nobody seemed to care."

He's a Bangladeshi who's been knighted by the Queen of England. A former accountant who left an executive position at Shell Oil to devote himself to the world's poorest. And when it comes to eliminating poverty, he may be the most influential man you've never heard of. Meet Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and head of a nongovernmental international development organization called BRAC. Today the University of Michigan honors Abed, who is 80, with its Thomas Francis Jr.

Critics call them "parachute researchers": Scientists from wealthy nations who swoop in when a puzzling disease breaks out in a developing country. They collect specimens, then head straight back home to analyze them. They don't coordinate with people fighting the epidemic on the ground — don't even share their discoveries for months, if ever.

Sometimes it's because they want to publish their results – and medical journals prefer exclusives. And sometimes it's because they can make a lot of money by coming up with copyrighted treatments for the disease.

The world is in danger of running out of vaccines for a deadly disease: yellow fever. A major outbreak in the African nation of Angola has already depleted the stockpile that world health officials had set aside for emergencies. It's unclear whether new vaccines can be made in time — even as officials worry that the epidemic could spread through Asia and beyond.

They're simply test tubes, mainly filled with blood and saliva, but to researcher Beatriz Parra Patino, they're a lot more.

To her, each tube represents "a human being." And the blood and saliva may hold the answer to one of the many mysteries about the Zika virus sweeping through her native Colombia: Is it linked to Guillan-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition with excruciating effects, including temporary paralysis.

"I treat the tubes as if I was treating the person," she says, "with respect and trying to do my best."

Keila Atuesta Jaimes, a petite 25-year-old, is lying on an exam table next to an ultrasound machine. The doctor moves the wand across her belly. It's pretty flat. She's only about three months pregnant. Then suddenly, there's the heartbeat!

Atuesta smiles. Nervously. About three weeks ago she came down with the kind of rash and fever she figured could mean only one thing: Zika.

The Zika outbreak is aggravating an already tense relationship between Venezuela and Colombia. In Colombia, more than 37,000 people have fallen sick. Venezuela reports fewer than 5,000 cases — a number that Colombian officials find suspiciously low.

Juan Bitar heads the health department of a state in Colombia that shares a long border with Venezuela. "A lot of people who are sick with Zika in Venezuela are coming [to Colombia] for medical attention," he says.

Johann Castro Hernandez is an 18-year-old college kid who loves playing soccer. Only these days, he can barely lift his legs, let alone kick a ball. His body looks weirdly thin, with no muscle tone. His movements are slow and tentative.

Two weeks ago, Jenny Tolosa found out she was pregnant.

The 23-year-old had no idea. "I didn't have any symptoms," she says. "I totally didn't expect this." She giggles, because she was excited by the news.

But she was also worried. She says her first thought was, "I think I had Zika last December!"

That's the mosquito-borne virus that's spreading through Latin America — and has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, which causes an abnormally small head and possible brain damage.

If you're a government official, you don't want to get a call from Cees Klumper's office.

Because there's a good chance what you'll hear is basically this: "Either you send us back the money that was misused in the past, or we'll deduct double the amount from your future grants. It's your choice."

The current Zika outbreak got its start in Brazil, and that country is still the epicenter of the outbreak. But could the situation in neighboring Venezuela be nearly as bad?

That's the charge being made by some doctors' groups, who claim the Venezuelan government is vastly underestimating the number of cases. The government estimates that around 3,700 people have likely been infected with Zika since the outbreak began last year.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa may be officially over — the World Health Organization made that momentous announcement Thursday, but more cases are likely to crop up and crucial questions about the disease remain unanswered. We asked Dr. Daniel Bausch, an expert on Ebola who is now working with the World Health Organization, to list the top five mysteries researchers still need to clear up.

Some Western parents worry whether vaccines for their kids are spaced too closely together. The last Republican presidential debate fueled anxiety over the issue.

Once again, health experts have been rushing in to reassure parents that the schedule for vaccinating children is not only safe but medically necessary.

If you fall seriously ill in Poland you can count on good care at a private hospital but should probably steer clear of the public ones.

In Botswana, an otherwise survivable road accident could prove deadly owing to lack of good care. But in some areas of neighboring Namibia there's a decent chance emergency medical personnel can stabilize you.

And if you have a heart attack, your ticker should be in good hands in Sao Paulo.

It's an open secret among journalists: When reporting a major news story in an unfamiliar country, it's great to have a "fixer."

That's the catch-all term we use for our local guides to language and logistics — the people who can translate documents, interpret during interviews and generally help you figure out the most efficient and the safest way to get from one location to the next.

In 2000 the world's leaders agreed on an ambitious plan to drastically reduce global poverty by 2015. Called the Millennium Development Goals, the targets spurred an unprecedented aid effort that brought lifesaving medicines and vaccines to millions of people and helped slash the share of people in the developing world who live in extreme poverty from 47 percent in 1990 to 14 percent today.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When Elynn Walter walks into a room of officials from global health organizations and governments, this is how she likes to get their attention:

"I'll say, 'OK, everyone stand up and yell the word blood!' or say, 'Half of the people in the world have their period!' "

It's her way of getting people talking about a topic that a lot of people, well, aren't comfortable talking about: menstrual hygiene.

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