Jason Beaubien

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

In this role, he reports on a range of health issues across the world. He's covered mass circumcision drives in Kenya, abortion in El Salvador, poisonous gold mines in Nigeria, drug-resistant malaria in Myanmar and tuberculosis in Tajikistan. He was part of a team of reporters at NPR that won a Peabody Award in 2015 for their extensive coverage of the West Africa Ebola outbreak. His current beat also examines development issues including why Niger has the highest birth rate in the world, can private schools serve some of the poorest kids on the planet and the links between obesity and economic growth.

Prior to becoming the Global Health and Development Correspondent in 2012, Beaubien spent four years based in Mexico City covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In that role, Beaubien filed stories on politics in Cuba, the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the FMLN victory in El Salvador, the world's richest man and Mexico's brutal drug war.

For his first multi-part series as the Mexico City correspondent, Beaubien drove the length of the U.S./Mexico border making a point to touch his toes in both oceans. The stories chronicled the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier.

In 2002, Beaubien joined NPR after volunteering to cover a coup attempt in the Ivory Coast. Over the next four years, Beaubien worked as a foreign correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa, visiting 27 countries on the continent. His reporting ranged from poverty on the world's poorest continent, the HIV in the epicenter of the epidemic, and the all-night a cappella contests in South Africa, to Afro-pop stars in Nigeria and a trial of white mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea.

During this time, he covered the famines and wars of Africa, as well as the inspiring preachers and Nobel laureates. Beaubien was one of the first journalists to report on the huge exodus of people out of Sudan's Darfur region into Chad, as villagers fled some of the initial attacks by the Janjawid. He reported extensively on the steady deterioration of Zimbabwe and still has a collection of worthless Zimbabwean currency.

In 2006, Beaubien was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the relationship between the developed and the developing world.

Beaubien grew up in Maine, started his radio career as an intern at NPR Member Station KQED in San Francisco and worked at WBUR in Boston before joining NPR.

For six years, Haitian activists have demanded that the United Nations accept responsibility for cholera in Haiti.

Yet many seemed almost shocked on Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's apology for the U.N.'s role in the outbreak. Shocked — and pleased.

Each year, the United States gives $5 billion to $6 billion to fight HIV/AIDS around the world, with particular emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for two-thirds of the nearly 2 million new infections each year.

For World AIDS Day, we sat down with the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, Deborah Birx, to talk about the state of the epidemic and the work of PEPFAR, set up by President George W. Bush in 2003 with the intention of saving the lives of people suffering from AIDS around the world.

While the HIV/AIDS epidemic no longer looks as menacing as it did in the 1980s and '90s, efforts to stop the spread of the disease have hit a brick wall.

The number of new Zika cases in Puerto Rico has dropped dramatically in recent weeks, yet health officials worry the full effect of the outbreak on the island may not be known for months or years to come.

Puerto Rico has confirmed more than 34,000 Zika infections since the virus was first detected on the island in November 2015.

Have bed nets lost their power to protect people from malaria-carrying mosquitoes?

That's the subject of debate among researchers looking for ways to cut down on malaria cases and deaths.

Over the past two decades, the insecticide-treated bed net has been one of the most powerful tools against malaria.

He wasn't sure he had the right name to run for student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His first name was pretty ordinary — Bradley. But his last name is Opere — definitely not a familiar-sounding name in the U.S.

"You have to have a white-sounding name to run for office," says Opere, a business major who's from Nairobi, Kenya. The ambitious 24-year-old ran anyway.

And with his air of quiet confidence – and the skills he gained from two-years spent at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg — he won 53 percent of the vote.

In Western and Central Africa a new technique to combat malaria is rapidly gaining traction across the Sahel. Health officials in 11 countries are now giving children antimalarial drugs during the rainy season in this semi-arid region and seeing a dramatic drop in the number of malaria cases.

The Ebola virus doesn't always make people incredibly sick, and some people who are infected don't even know they have it, according to research published Tuesday in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Haiti on Tuesday launched the largest emergency cholera vaccination campaign ever attempted. The plan is to try to vaccinate 800,000 people in parts of the country devastated by Hurricane Matthew.

Immediately after the Category 4 storm tore across southwest Haiti last month, the number of reported cholera cases across the country shot up dramatically. In some storm-ravaged areas it jumped tenfold.

Nationwide, the number of new cases went from roughly 75 a day to well over 200.

Cholera can kill a person in a matter of hours.

It's a severe gastro-intestinal disease, and it can trigger so much diarrhea and vomiting that patients can rapidly become dehydrated. They lose so much fluid that their internal organs shut down.

For years, the United Nations has refused to publicly acknowledge that its troops were the source of a massive cholera outbreak in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

But now the U.N. is accepting "moral responsibility" for the outbreak that has sickened nearly 800,000 people and killed more than 9,000 others.

Who's in charge of the aid?

That's the question in the hurricane-ravaged southwest of Haiti.

Should politicians hand it out? Or aid groups? Or religious leaders?

Pastor Louis Masil, who lives in the tiny village of Banatte, doesn't think the government should be in control.

"Since the independence of Haiti, the culture was always all governments, all officials only care for themselves," he says. "They only care for stealing the money and not helping the communities."

The Dumont section of Port Salut on Haiti's southwest coast is spread over rolling green hills that used to be rich with coconut, mango and banana trees. But Hurricane Matthew toppled most of those trees. It tore apart the simple cement and sheet-metal houses in the area. It killed livestock, destroyed crops, smashed businesses.

Emmanuello Charlien is part of a team trying to tally the damage of Matthew here. Charlien points out a pile of metal that used to be a cellphone tower.

In Port Salut, the individual signs of the Hurricane Matthew's destruction are everywhere. A giant mango tree with its thick trunk snapped like a wishbone. A cinder block house crumpled on its foundation. But it's only as you continue to drive through this part of the coast that you see the extent of the damage. The devastation goes on and on. Hillsides are swept clean of trees. Neighborhood after neighborhood is in ruin.

In Haiti hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Matthew are still waiting for aid.

The death toll is in the hundreds and is expected to rise. The Haitian president calls the situation in the southwest a catastrophe.

At the Lycee Philip Garrier, a high school in the hard-hit town of Les Cayes that's serving as a shelter, there's growing frustration among people who lost everything to the storm.

Hundreds of people took shelter in the school, sleeping on classroom floors. Most say they now have nowhere else to go.

Zika wasn't even on Dr. Sankar Swaminathan's mind when he first examined a severely ill 73-year-old man in a Salt Lake City hospital in June. The patient had just returned from a visit to Mexico when he suddenly fell violently ill.

"We were not thinking about Zika at all because Zika usually does not cause severe illness, in fact it almost never does," says Swaminathan, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Utah.

When the phone rang, Rebecca Richards-Kortum thought it was a telemarketer. Instead, it was the MacArthur Foundation calling her at home to tell her she'd just won a grant totaling $625,000. And she hadn't even been aware that she'd been nominated for the prestigious award.

To be blunt, I couldn't care less about most of the hotels I've stayed in over the years as a foreign correspondent. Many of them were just a place to take a shower, sleep and then forget about. But La Villa Creole in Haiti was different. I first stayed there in 2008 and quickly found it to be an oasis.

When I was planning a trip to Haiti last month I went on to La Villa Creole's website to look for their phone number and discovered they had closed down. My stomach dropped. It was like being told out of the blue that an old friend had passed away.

Nigeria has to get rid of polio — again.

Last year, the World Health Organization declared the country to be "polio-free." That milestone meant the disease was gone from the entire continent of Africa, a major triumph in the multibillion-dollar global effort to eradicate the disease.

But that declaration of "polio-free" turned out to be premature.

The Dominican Republic has identified nearly 1,000 pregnant women suspected of being infected with the Zika virus. Haiti, which shares the same island, has identified only 22.

"There's no reason to believe that the mosquito will behave differently here [in Haiti] than in the Dominican Republic," says Dr. Jean Luc Poncelet, the World Health Organization's representative in Port-au-Prince.

At the Mirebalais Hospital in Haiti's central plateau, Dr. Louise Ivers and Dr. Roman Jean-Louis are examining a baby girl who was born in early July with microcephaly, a smaller-than-normal skull often associated with Zika infections.

The baby, named Chinashama, is dressed in a white smock adorned with small flowers. Her legs cross unnaturally over her shins, and her mother, Chrisnette Sainvilus, says the baby cries a lot and has trouble passing stool. "Day and night she's crying," the mother of two says. It's unclear what physical and mental problems Chinashama is facing.

It was a tragic turning point.

On July 11, South Sudanese soldiers invaded a hotel in the capital city of Juba and gang-raped foreign aid workers.

"The soldiers just came to the bathroom where all the girls were hiding and they just picked us out of the bathroom one by one," says one of the women who was in the hotel. She asked that her name not be used.

Despite calls for help to the U.N. compound a mile down the road, no one came.

For the first time the United Nations is signaling it may be on the verge of admitting that its peacekeepers introduced cholera into Haiti in 2010. Over the last 6 years that outbreak has claimed sickened nearly a million Haitians and claimed more than 9,000 lives.

Critics of the agency say that the U.N.'s failure to take responsibility for the outbreak has been a public relations nightmare and an insult to the people of Haiti.

The outbreak began in October of 2010. At that time, cholera hadn't been reported in Haiti in more than 100 years.

Health officials in Nigeria are gearing up for a massive emergency polio immunization drive after two children were paralyzed by the disease.

The two new polio cases in Nigeria are the first detected on the African continent in more than 2 years.

Nigerian health officials plan to vaccinate nearly 5 million kids across the northeast of the country in an effort to contain this latest outbreak.

The re-emergence of polio in Nigeria is a major setback for global efforts to eradicate the disease.

Puerto Rico is in the midst of one of the worst Zika outbreaks of any region in the northern hemisphere. The island has been reporting roughly 1,500 new cases of Zika each week. Hundreds of pregnant women are already infected, and public health officials say the outbreak in Puerto Rico probably won't start to subside until September or October.

Yet health officials also say efforts to stop the spread of the virus are being hampered by mistrust, indifference and fatigue among residents, over what some view as just the latest tropical disease to hit the island.

Anna Phillips is surrounded by worms.

Millions of worms.

They're all stored in a hodgepodge of glass bottles, lined up on rolling, floor-to-ceiling shelves similar to the stacks at a major library or the vault of a data storage company.

Some bottles hold a single worm suspended in a formaldehyde solution. Other jars are packed with clumps of fleshy roundworms or long, languid tapeworms.

There are worms that arrived a few months ago. And a few that are more than 200 years old.

In Puerto Rico the local association of obstetricians and gynecologists has launched a new attack on Zika. Because Zika primarily is a problem for pregnant women, the doctors are trying to reduce the number of pregnant women by offering free contraception across the island to any woman who wants it.

"We have had ... historical barriers to contraception in Puerto Rico for a long long time," says Dr. Nabal Bracero, the driving force behind the initiative and the head of the local chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico is expanding rapidly.

Recently, the island has been reporting more than a thousand new cases of Zika each week.

The situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.

"We are right now probably in the month or 6 weeks of peak transmission," says Tyler Sharp the lead epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Zika operation in Puerto Rico.

"Sometimes they want to keep it secret," she says with a sigh of exasperation.

Dr. Marlen Baroso is talking about the patients she cares for who have HIV.

"I have a case, a woman is taking medication. And her husband is taking medication also." But neither one knows the other is HIV-positive.

"Husband and wife!" she declares. "And this is not the first case."

Every night at 8 p.m., 18-year-old Catherine Msimango takes a pill.

It's the same pill that people with HIV take to fight the virus. Only she doesn't have HIV.

Msimango says the pill gives her power against the virus. She can take it even without her boyfriend knowing.

"It's all about my safety because I don't know what he does when I'm not around," she says. "If he doesn't want to use protection [a condom], I know that I'm safe from the pill."

Pages