Nurith Aizenman

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?

Over the past decade there has been a surge of interest in a novel approach to helping the world's poor: Instead of giving them goods like food or services like job training, just hand out cash — with no strings attached. Now a major new study suggests that people who get the aid aren't the only ones who benefit.

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.

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.

Almost as soon as the e-cigarette maker Juul launched in the Philippines this past June, Maria Encarnita Limpin started noticing the product in shops all over the capital Manila.

"It's like they mushroomed," she says.

Limpin is a doctor specializing in lung disease and also directs a nonprofit that has helped push though rules preventing the marketing and sale of cigarettes to minors in the Philippines. So she was particularly horrified to see how visible Juul's vaporizers are in areas where children are likely to see them.

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."

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.

Editor's note: This post has been republished with updates to reflect the latest count of new cases of Ebola in Congo.

This week the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo took a worrisome turn: The number of people reported sick each week has started to rise precipitously.

Compared to mid-February, when the tally of new cases had been brought down to as low as 24 per week, the figures for this most recent week are on track to double — bringing the total number of infected over the last eight months to nearly 1,000.

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.

Imagine if we'd never heard of China's Ming dynasty vases, Russia's Fabergé eggs or Ghana's Kente cloth.

Yet it so happens that Senegal boasts an artistic practice just as unparalleled — but which has largely gone unrecognized beyond its borders: For centuries goldsmiths there have been crafting some of the world's most intricate gold jewelry.

And it's a tradition with a fascinating history, dating to the 12th century and intimately connected to a powerful class of women whose rise in the 1700s was impressive ... and morally complicated.

Over the last decade and a half there's been a major push by economists to do rigorous research on poverty — basically to run experiments to figure out which solutions actually work.

But putting a halt to those that come up short is easier said than done.

The government of Democratic Republic of the Congo has released a new video in its fight to end the Ebola outbreak there. The message: To avoid contamination with the virus, it helps to wash your hands.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The Ebola outbreak spreading through the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed at least 177 lives. This outbreak is in a part of the country with a lot of conflict, and fears are growing that things could get worse. NPR's Nurith Aizenman has more.

The level of gun violence in the United States is completely outsized compared to what's seen in other wealthy countries. In fact, the rate of gun violence in the U.S. is higher than in many low-income countries.

Those are the findings of the latest version of an annual report on gun violence from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which tracks lives lost in every country, in every year, by every possible cause of death.

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.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It's been about two weeks since Hurricane Florence made landfall, and around 1,500 people are still in temporary shelters. NPR's Nurith Aizenman visited one of those shelters in Lumberton, N.C., and sent this report.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It was the summer of 2013 and Daniel Handel had just moved to Rwanda. He was unpacking boxes in his new house, when his wife walked over with her laptop and said, 'You have to listen to this radio story!' The piece she played him was by NPR's Planet Money team, and it profiled a charity that was testing a bold idea: Instead of giving people in poor countries, say, livestock or job training to help improve their standard of living, why not just give them cash and let them decide how best to spend it?

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.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on Nov. 1, 2016, and has been updated.

Crazy Rich Asians is, of course, not a movie about global development. But as it happens, the topic gets a cameo in the rom-com.

Main character Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) is a professor of economics. And on a trip to Singapore to meet the family of her "crazy rich" boyfriend Nick, she goes to a big wedding and runs into a Malay princess, who has written an article about ... microloans.

So many aid programs in low-income countries have set "empowering women" as their goal. They don't just want to boost women's incomes and health and education level, but to give them the ability to make their own decisions over those aspects of their lives.

But how do you actually gauge how much control a woman has over her life?

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."

As a parent, did you ever push your child in ways you now regret – or not push enough? Or when you were a child, did you ever feel pushed too hard or not enough?

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.

It's a problem that has come seemingly out of nowhere. Over the last five years a worrisome number of low-income countries have racked up so much debt they are now at high risk of being unable to pay it back — with potentially devastating consequences not just for their economies but for their citizens, many of whom are already living in extreme poverty.

The hamlet of Bawa was in uproar. A pretty, 20-year-old villager named Amelia had vanished shortly after heading to wash her dishes in the shallow river that runs through this remote western corner of Mozambique. Crocodiles often lurk just below the surface, and over the last decade this community of about a thousand people had lost almost 50 of their number to attacks. So it seemed clear that Amelia was the latest victim.

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