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.

Monkey malaria is just a few steps away from becoming a major human disease. The big question is whether it will take those steps.

New research shows that Plasmodium knowlesi, a form of malaria common in monkeys in South East Asia, is capable of flourishing in people even though so far it rarely does.

Last month, I visited a displaced persons camp in South Sudan and met a woman who said she'd spent almost a year hiding in a swamp. She spent her days submerged, her head just above water. At night she'd emerge to search for food.

She's one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes over the past two years to escape that country's brutal civil war. It's hard to imagine that so many people would give up their worldly goods and flee into the bush. A new report from Amnesty International helps explain why.

When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, there was great optimism both inside and outside of the country that it was putting its deeply troubled past behind it.

For generations, the South Sudanese had been terrorized by rebel armies and repressive government soldiers. At independence, South Sudan was one of the poorest nations in sub-Saharan Africa but also one of its most oil-rich.

The honeymoon for the world's newest nation didn't last long. Late in 2013 the president and vice president took up arms against each other. And things went downhill fast from there.

Nyalion Gutyua fed her children water lilies. And some fruit. Because that's pretty much all there was. When the dry season came and the water lilies stopped flourishing, Nyalion Gutyua and her children joined a group of about a dozen women and children and walked to Bentiu, South Sudan's second largest city. It took them four days.

"We came here because of hunger," she says. She'd heard she could get food in Bentiu from the U.N.

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Aedes aegypti is the dog of the mosquito world. It acts as if it's man's best friend.

"It's been with us for a long time, probably for at least 5,000 years when we started keeping water next to our homes [ideal for laying eggs] and it's adapted to people," says Marten Edwards, an entomologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. "It loves us. It loves our cities. It loves our blood. It functions very well with us."

There's just one problem. This mosquito makes us sick.

"If you are a woman who is pregnant living in the U.S., there's one really important thing you need to know: You shouldn't go to a place that has Zika spreading."

The World Health Organization announced Monday a public health emergency. The cause for alarm is the cluster of birth defects among babies born to mothers infected with the Zika virus, which has spread rapidly through Brazil and much of Latin America since 2015.

In her first major address on the Zika outbreak, the head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, said the mosquito-borne virus has gone from being "a mild threat to one of alarming proportions." Chan spoke Thursday in Geneva.

Something new — and quite frightening — appears to be happening with the Zika virus.

For decades Zika was a virus that turned up in monkeys and occasionally in humans in Africa and Southeast Asia. Its symptoms were mild and the number of confirmed human cases was low.

The first big outbreak was on the island of Yap in Micronesia. Three quarters of the island's population were infected — about 5,000 people. But few of them reported any symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering a travel warning for countries where Zika virus is circulating. The reason: growing concern among researchers that the virus could be causing babies in Brazil to be born with brain damage.

The Zika virus is named after the Zika forest in Uganda, where it was first identified in the 1940s. For decades it was a rare disease, primarily popping up in Africa and occasionally in Southeast Asia. In 2007, there was a major Zika outbreak in Micronesia. Then in May of 2015 the virus turned up in Brazil.

"Look. Have you seen this?" asks 60-year-old Emmanuel Kwame, who's completely blind. We are standing in his vegetable garden in the village of Asubende in central Ghana. I do see what he's pointing at, but I'm unclear what he "sees." He's tapping his walking stick against a denuded stalk that used to be some sort of plant. "This is palm nuts. It was growing, and some goats came to eat it."

In Asubende, goats are the bane of the blind. Goats are clever. They're quick. They defy gravity and fencing.

One of the problems with river blindness is that it doesn't kill you.

"Messieurs, c'est les microbes qui auront le dernier mot."

"Gentlemen, it is the microbes who will have the last word."

That comment from 19th century disease fighter Louis Pasteur is not what you'd expect to see at the start of a report from some of the world's top public health officials. But the report itself has a stinging message: We're not prepared for the next coming plague or pandemic — or HIV 2.0.

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An active shooting situation is still unfolding at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Co. Police have exchanged fire with a gunman inside the building. Here's police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley.

"The reality is this outbreak's not over," says Dr. William Fischer, speaking about Ebola. "It's just changed."

Fischer, a professor at the University of North Carolina who's been studying Ebola survivors, was speaking about the new cases in Liberia. On Monday, a 15-year-old died of the disease. The teenager's father and brother have also tested positive for Ebola. Health authorities have not yet determined how the family was infected.

After twice being declared Ebola-free, Liberia is reporting new cases of the disease.

The first case that was confirmed, according to the World Health Organization, was a 10-year-old boy in the capital, Monrovia. He fell ill on Nov. 14, was hospitalized a few days later and confirmed as having Ebola Thursday.

It's still unclear how the boy became infected, says WHO's special representative on Ebola, Bruce Aylward.

Colistin is the antibiotic that doctors use as a last resort to wipe out dangerous bacteria.

"It's really been kept as the last drug in the locker when all else has failed," says Dr. Jim Spencer, a senior lecturer in microbiology at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

The Middle East is bursting at the seams from the Syrian refugee crisis. When I was in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley a few months ago, tension was mounting between the locals and the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who've flooded into the area. Officials in one town were threatening to evict hundreds of Syrians living in a squalid camp in a muddy lot. Schools have been overwhelmed by Syrian students.

Earlier this week, we went on a speed date — yes, a real speed date — with some of the most talented change-makers from the developing world.

The oral polio vaccine may go down in history as one of the most powerful public health tools of modern times. Developed by Albert Sabin in 1961, the vaccine is cheap, easy to administer and has pushed polio to the brink of extinction.

The joke is that if you can "count to two" you can vaccinate kids against polio. That's because all it takes is squeezing two drops of the vaccine into a child's mouth.

Lea Hatouni is like a lot of other teenagers around the world. She likes music and hanging out with her friends. Her favorite band is the British rock band Coldplay. When she has free time she stops by the snack shop where her brother, Kenny works. "I talk to Kenny. We laugh and put on music. We start to dance and doing crazy stuff," she laughs.

And she loves to paint her fingernails her favorite color-- dark blue.

Like any teen, she has big dreams.

This week, the carpeted halls of the Philadelphia Marriott echoed with a patois of West African French, Liverpudlian English and Brazilian Portuguese as researchers from around the globe converged for the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH).

The convention covers a wide range of tropical diseases, but malaria got the lion's share of attention.

Tuberculosis is now killing more people each year than HIV, according to new data from the World Health Organization.

WHO estimates there were almost 10 million new cases of TB last year; the disease caused 1.5 million deaths. By comparison, 1.2 million lives were claimed by HIV.

That makes TB the No. 1 infectious killer.

Polio is in its final days.

The disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of kids a year around the globe is now down to just a few dozen cases this year. "We are aiming to halt all transmission of wild polio virus next year," says Peter Crowley, the head of UNICEF's global efforts against polio.

If polio is stopped, it will be only the second human disease to be eliminated. Smallpox was the first — the last case was in 1977.

"I really want to go back to school," says 15-year-old Fatmeh, "because work, work, work. ... Life isn't only about work."

But that's what her life is about right now.

Fatmeh used to be a top student at her school in Syria. Now she spends her days working in agricultural fields in the fertile Beqaa Valley, picking vegetables, plucking weeds and tending crops. And when the foreman thinks that she and the other kids in the fields aren't working hard enough, he hits them with a black plastic pipe.

Before: Her Typical Teenage Life

A Scottish nurse who recovered from Ebola in January has been medevaced from Glasgow to London in a Royal Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane specially equipped for infection control.

Doctors say Pauline Cafferkey is suffering "an unusual late complication" from her previous Ebola infection. They note that "Pauline previously had the Ebola virus and this is therefore not a new infection."

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Pope Francis, addressing the U.N. General Assembly today, urged international cooperation not only to solve humanity's largest problems but to save humanity itself.

Quoting a speech to the U.N. by his predecessor Pope Paul VI in 1965, Francis said of the world today: "The real danger comes from man...."

He stressed that humans have a moral duty to protect the earth, saying that it is the creation of God and humans don't have the authority to abuse or destroy it.

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