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. During 2014, he reported extensively on 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.

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Goats and Soda
3:42 am
Thu May 21, 2015

WHO Calls For $100 Million Emergency Fund, Doctor 'SWAT Team'

The Ebola outbreak "overwhelmed" the World Health Organization and made it clear the agency must change, WHO's director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, said Monday in Geneva.
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 8:00 pm

Nearly 3,000 delegates from around the world are gathering this week in one of the most expensive cities in Europe to debate the fate of the World Health Organization.

There's one main question on the table: Will the WHO be given the power and money it needs to be the world's leading health agency, or will it plod forward in its current state — as a weak, bureaucratic agency of the U.N. known more for providing advice than taking action.

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Goats and Soda
3:25 am
Wed May 20, 2015

She's Got One Of The Toughest Diseases To Cure. And She's Hopeful

Jenny Tenorio Gallegos, 35, in Lima, Peru, is being treated for drug-resistant TB. The treatment lasts two years and may rob her of her hearing.
Jason Beaubien/NPR

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 2:44 pm

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is not only airborne and lethal; it's one of the most difficult diseases in the world to cure.

In Peru, 35-year-old Jenny Tenorio Gallegos wheezes even when she's sitting still. That's because of the damage tuberculosis has done to her lungs. The antibiotics she's taking to treat extensively drug-resistant TB nauseate her, give her headaches, leave her exhausted and are destroying her hearing.

"At times I don't hear well," she says. "You have to speak loud for me to be able to understand."

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Goats and Soda
4:30 pm
Tue May 19, 2015

Eyes In The Sky: Foam Drones Keep Watch On Rain Forest Trees

A man and his drone: Carlos Casteneda of the Amazon Basin Conservation Association prepares to launch one of his plastic foam planes.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 7:46 pm

A couple of toy planes are out to catch illegal loggers and miners in the Amazon.

It's an awesome responsibility.

Every year, illegal logging and mining in the Peruvian Amazon destroy tens of thousands of acres of rain forest. The deforestation in remote parts of the jungle is difficult to detect while it's going on.

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Goats and Soda
3:24 am
Tue May 19, 2015

They're Going Door To Door In The Amazon To See Why People Get Sick

Researchers meet participants: (from left) investigator Jose Luis Roca; Dr. Ernesto Ortiz; study participants Rainer Leon and his mother, Rina Leon Chanbilla; and nurse Jennifer Rampas.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 10:14 am

Is it the mercury or the malaria?

Or maybe it's something else entirely that's making people sick in the Peruvian Amazon.

Those questions are bedeviling researchers from Duke University who have been studying gold mining in the region. Illegal mining has exploded in the area in the past decade, and the people living downriver have a variety of medical issues, from malaria to anemia to high blood pressure.

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Goats and Soda
6:06 am
Sun May 17, 2015

Who Did This To Peru's Jungle?

This aerial view shows the effects of gold mining on Peru's rain forest.
Courtesy of Gregory Asner, Carnegie Institution for Science

Originally published on Sun May 17, 2015 3:52 pm

Gold has been a blessing and a curse for Peru for centuries. In the 16th century, one of the first Spanish explorers to arrive, Francisco Pizarro, was so enthralled by the mineral riches that he took the Inca king hostage.

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Goats and Soda
5:15 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

What Should Liberia Do With Its Empty Ebola Treatment Units?

A boot-drying rack sits empty at the Ministry of Defense Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 6:58 pm

The plastic orange mesh fences that once separated Ebola patients in the "red zone" from visitors in the "green zone" have collapsed. Corrugated metal roofing sheets flap in the wind. Some of the tents that served as isolation wards are still in good shape, but many of the tarps used as partitions are torn and frayed.

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Goats and Soda
4:53 am
Fri May 15, 2015

It's Like The Story Of Job: Ebola Survivors Who Continue To Suffer

Moses Lasana recovered from Ebola, but he faces a range of medical issues and waves of pain. "The pain just come from one part of the body to another," he says.
Jason Beaubien/NPR

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 12:13 pm

His mother named him Moses, but the story of Moses Lasana over the past year unfolds more like the story of Job: Adversity follows tragedy only to be topped off with pain.

Last summer, Moses Lasana's girlfriend, who was nine months pregnant with his child, got Ebola and died. He has two sons; one of them also got sick and died. Then he came down with the disease.

In September, Moses Lasana was cured of Ebola. That should have been good news for the 30-year-old Liberian. But his suffering continues.

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Goats and Soda
5:55 am
Sat May 9, 2015

Block By Block, Health Workers Lead Liberia To Victory Over Ebola

Caroline Williams is a community organizer in New Kru Town, a suburb of Monrovia. Here's how she got her message through to Liberians about preventing Ebola: "We talk to them, talk to them, talk to them. At last they started listening to us. All the methods that we been giving them, by God's will, they accepted."
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Sun May 10, 2015 6:29 am

They were the ones who went door to door to stop the spread of Ebola. They were accused of passing on the virus and had water hurled at them. They were the community health workers — the unsung heroes of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia.

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Goats and Soda
4:30 pm
Fri May 8, 2015

As Ebola Leaves Liberia, Measles Makes A Forceful Comeback

A nurse holds a young girl who was vaccinated at the kickoff of a national measles prevention campaign in Liberia.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Fri May 8, 2015 10:38 pm

On the northern side of Monrovia, a team of nurses is vaccinating children on the veranda of the AfroMed clinic. Tables with boxes of rubber gloves and vaccine coolers are arranged in the shade out of the intense, tropical sun.

A mother rocks her crying baby, who has just been jabbed with a measles shot. Martina Seyah, who brought her 2-year-old daughter, Irena, to get the shot, says parents in the neighborhood are very worried their children could get measles or other diseases.

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Goats and Soda
4:00 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

You Don't Want To Mess With An Angry Mother

Phyllis Omido is one of six winners of the 2015 Goldman Environmental prizes.
Courtesy of The Goldman Environmental Prize

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 4:42 pm

In the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, Phyllis Omido knew that industry could pose a danger to the surrounding communities. She'd worked on environmental impact assessment reports for several factories.

But when her 2 1/2-year-old son, King David, got sick with a mysterious condition, it didn't occur to her that it might be from environmental toxins. He had a high fever that wasn't responding to medication. He couldn't sleep. He was plagued with diarrhea, and his eyes became runny. He spent two weeks in the hospital, and still no one could figure out what was wrong.

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Health
6:25 pm
Sat April 18, 2015

WHO Leader Says End Of Ebola Outbreak Is Near, But Hard Work Remains

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

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Goats and Soda
4:06 pm
Fri April 10, 2015

What's Bigger: Yemen Or Virginia? There's An App For That

From left: How the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen stack up against the United States.
IfItWereMyHome.com

Originally published on Fri April 10, 2015 5:21 pm

The headlines tell a lot about the crisis in Yemen: internal strife, evacuations of international aid workers, Saudi Arabian airstrikes.

But you may have one very basic question that you can't easily find an answer for: How big is Yemen, anyway?

You can look at maps and check out Wikipedia but wouldn't it be great to just to slap an outline of Yemen on top of a map of the United States to get a sense of its size?

IfItWereMyHome.com lets you do just that.

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Goats and Soda
5:29 pm
Sun March 1, 2015

The Brother Went To Fight Ebola. So Did His Sister. Mom Was 'A Wreck'

How do siblings get around the "no touching" rule during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone? Alex and Jen Tran grabbed a rare hug when they were geared up for training.
Courtesy of Alex Tran

Originally published on Sun March 1, 2015 7:43 pm

When Alex Tran went off to Sierra Leone to work as an epidemiologist, his parents were worried. His mom was "a wreck," according to his sister Jen, who followed him into the Ebola hot zone a few weeks later.

Last fall as the Ebola outbreak raged in West Africa, Alex, 28, was working at USAID. Jen, who's a registered nurse, was deployed with the U.S. Navy on a ship in the Arabian Gulf. They both were itching to get to the front lines of the epidemic to help.

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Goats and Soda
3:36 am
Fri February 20, 2015

The World Could Be On The Verge Of Losing A Powerful Malaria Drug

A mother holds her ailing son at a special clinic for malaria in Myanmar.
Paula Bronstein Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 7:21 pm

A new study finds a disturbing trend in the battle against malaria. There are highly effective drugs called artemisinins — and now resistant malaria is turning up in parts of Myanmar, the reclusive country also known as Burma, where it hadn't been seen before.

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Goats and Soda
4:39 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Nigeria Is On The Verge Of Bidding Goodbye To Polio

In this 2012 photograph, Adamu Ali carries his 4-year-old son, Omar, who was stricken with polio earlier that year. They live in the Nigerian village of Minjibir.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 6:29 pm

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the three countries where polio transmission has never been brought to a halt.

Now Nigeria may be leaving this unfortunate club.

In 2006 the West African nation recorded more than 1,000 cases of polio-induced paralysis. Last year it had only six; the most recent was in July.

"This I believe is the first time in history that they've gone this long without having a case," says Gregory Armstrong, chief of the polio eradication branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Goats and Soda
4:28 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

The U.S. Helped Beat Back Ebola — Only Not In The Way You Might Think

Boys run from blowing dust as a U.S. Marine vehicle takes off from an Ebola treatment center under construction in Liberia in October. In the end, the centers weren't always needed, but the military's ability to ferry supplies was critical in fighting the outbreak.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 7:08 pm

Hundreds of U.S. troops, sent to help fight Ebola in West Africa, are now coming home. That's the news from the White House today.

Did they make a difference?

Not in the way you'd think. The grand plans to build 17 new field hospitals in Liberia and train thousands of health care workers, announced in September, didn't quite come off. Several of the hospitals weren't needed and were never built. Others opened after the epidemic had peaked and were practically empty. Only a fraction of the promised health workers were trained.

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Goats and Soda
10:56 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Measles Vaccination Rates: Tanzania Does Better Than U.S.

This World Health Organization map shows the percent of the population vaccinated for measles in each country in 2013. Dark green is at least 90 percent. Light green is 80 to 89 percent. Orange is 50 to 79 percent. Red is less than 50 percent.
Courtesy of WHO

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 2:51 pm

As debate mounts in the U.S. over whether or not to require measles vaccinations, global immunization rates show something interesting: Many poor countries have far higher vaccination rates than rich ones.

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Global Health
5:11 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Critics Say Ebola Crisis Was WHO's Big Failure. Will Reform Follow?

Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, has said of Ebola: "It overwhelmed the capacity of WHO, and it is a crisis that cannot be solved by a single agency or single country."
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 12:37 pm

Ebola was the Hurricane Katrina for the World Health Organization — its moment of failure. The organization's missteps in the early days of the outbreak are now legendary.

At first the agency that's responsible for "providing leadership on global health matters" was dismissive of the scale of the problem in West Africa. Then it deflected responsibility for the crisis to the overwhelmed governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. After eight months, it finally stepped up to take charge of the Ebola response but lacked the staff and funds to do so effectively.

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Goats and Soda
11:09 am
Wed February 4, 2015

New Clues To Mysterious Kidney Disease Afflicting Sugar Cane Workers

A new study finds that strenuous labor in the sugar cane fields of Central America is contributing to a mysterious form of kidney failure. Above: Workers harvest sugar cane in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 11:48 am

Something is destroying the kidneys of farm workers along the Pacific coast of Central America. Over the past two decades, more than 20,000 people in western Nicaragua and El Salvador — mostly men and many of them in their 20s and 30s — have died of a mysterious form of kidney failure. Researchers have been able to say definitively that it's not diabetes or other common causes of kidney failure.

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Goats and Soda
6:35 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Measles Is A Killer: It Took 145,000 Lives Worldwide Last Year

A Vietnamese boy is treated for measles in a state-run hospital in April 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 2, 2015 8:43 pm

The number of measles cases from the outbreak linked to Disneyland has now risen to at least 98. But measles remains extremely rare in the United States.

The rest of the world hasn't been so fortunate. Last year roughly 250,000 people came down with measles; more than half of them died.

Currently the Philippines is experiencing a major measles outbreak that sickened 57,000 people in 2014. China had twice that many cases, although they were more geographically spread out. Major outbreaks were also recorded in Angola, Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

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Goats and Soda
6:12 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

For Dollars Donated To Vaccine Campaigns, Norway Wears The Crown

A Pakistani polio vaccination worker gives a dose to a child in Islamabad during a 2014 campaign.
Farooq Naeem AFP/Getty Images

GAVI asked and the world gave.

GAVI is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. At a conference in Berlin today, the nonprofit group asked for help in meeting its goals of vaccinating 300 million children in low income countries against potentially fatal diseases.

The response was extraordinary: a total of $7.5 billion pledged to cover GAVI's 2016-2020 efforts.

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Goats and Soda
5:40 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

30-Year Sentence Lifted For Woman In El Salvador Abortion Case

In November, women in El Salvador marched for the freedom of 17 women accused of abortion, including Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez Aldana. She was pardoned this week.
Luis Galdamez Xinhua /Landov

Seven years ago, Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez Aldana went to jail in El Salvador. She was initially charged with abortion but prosecutors elevated the charge to aggravated homicide, arguing that the fetus was viable. Vasquez always contended that she did not have an abortion but had lost her unborn son due to medical complications late in the pregnancy.

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Goats and Soda
4:51 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Going For The Gold Sends Mercury Down The River

A miner holds a nugget of mercury mixed with gold. The mercury is used to extract gold from river sludge.
Rodrigo Abd AP

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 3:23 pm

Picture this: A rickety barge about the size of a garden shed is floating on the Madre de Dios river in eastern Peru. A stream of tan sludge pours off a conveyor belt on one side of the platform. Smoke from a generator belches from the other. The sound of a massive pump thuds across the water. And dangling over the side of the barge is a thick tube to suck sediment up from the riverbed.

Welcome to wildcat gold mining in the 21st century, Peruvian style.

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Goats and Soda
4:09 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

What's Most Likely To Kill You? Hint: Probably Not An Epidemic

Indian sand artist Sudersan Pattnaik touches up his sculpture for World No Tobacco Day at Golden Sea Beach in Puri, India.
Asit Kumar AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 9:34 pm

Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading killers around the globe. In 2012, two-thirds of all deaths worldwide were the result of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory infections. The mortality rate from noncommunicable diseases was even higher in low- and middle-income countries.

What is it that's most likely to kill you? The World Health Organization says that in the 21st century, it's your lifestyle.

And it's not just a Western problem.

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Goats and Soda
10:55 am
Thu January 15, 2015

Prediction: All Predictions About Ebola Are Unpredictable

This photo was taken in November, a tough month for Sierra Leone, with Ebola cases reportedly on the rise. A staff member is disinfecting an office where Dr. Komba Songu M'Briwah talks on the phone.
David Gilkey NPR

Throughout the Ebola outbreak the two big questions have always been: How bad is this going to get? And when is it going to end?

Current data show that the numbers of new cases are dropping in all three of the hardest-hit West African countries. A new study predicts Ebola could be eliminated from Liberia by June.

But Ebola specialists are leery of predictions, even from the most reputable of sources.

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Goats and Soda
5:18 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

A Cow Head Will Not Erupt From Your Body If You Get A Smallpox Vaccine

This did not really happen. Cows' heads did not emerge from the bodies of people newly inoculated against smallpox. But fear of the vaccine was so widespread that it prompted British satirist James Gillray to create this spoof in 1802.
H. Humphrey Henry Barton Jacobs Collection, Institute of the History of Medicine, JHU

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 6:17 pm

It all started with milkmaids.

Edward Jenner, an 18th-century English country doctor, noticed that they seemed to be immune to smallpox.

And that was a time when smallpox was a truly terrifying disease. Each year, it killed hundreds of thousands of Europeans. It made people terribly sick. Its oozing blisters scarred many of its victims for life. And there was no cure.

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Global Health
5:26 pm
Sun December 28, 2014

These Dedicated Ebola Fighters Are Men And Women On A Mission

Dr. John Fankhauser, one of the many missionaries battling Ebola, is sprayed with disinfectant at ELWA hospital in Liberia.
Courtesy of Bethany Fankhauser

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 5:38 pm

John Fankhauser, a missionary doctor, is as scared of Ebola as anybody else. But that hasn't stopped him from tending to patients during the outbreak. He sees the Ebola crisis as an important moment in his personal relationship with God.

"I have a very keen awareness of the risks and the need to be extremely careful, but I also feel very called to what I'm doing," says Fankhauser, 52, from Ventura, Calif. "I feel very confident that this is where God wants me right now."

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Goats and Soda
6:59 am
Sat December 27, 2014

Ebola Survivor: The Best Word For The Virus Is 'Aggression'

Dr. Ian Crozier stands with a group of survivors and a nurse at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone. He contracted Ebola and was on the brink of death, but he survived.
Courtesy of WHO/J Amone

Originally published on Sat December 27, 2014 11:10 am

When Dr. Ian Crozier arrived in West Africa this past summer, he was stepping into the epicenter of the Ebola hot zone. The American doctor was working in the Ebola ward of a large, public hospital in Sierra Leone's dusty city of Kenema.

The trip nearly cost him his life. First came a fever, then a severe headache. "My first thought was, 'Oh, I must have missed a few days of my malaria prophylaxis,' " Crozier recalls.

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Goats and Soda
9:40 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Pakistan Keeps On Vaccinating Despite Tough Terrain And Terror Threat

A Pakistani health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a campaign in the northern city of Rawalpindi.
FAROOQ NAEEM AFP/Getty Images

Between the rugged terrain and the constant terrorist threats, vaccinating Pakistani children against common diseases hasn't been easy. Mountains make it hard — at times even impossible — for vaccinators to reach people in the north. In the south, health workers have to use four-wheelers and camels to travel through Pakistan's harsh deserts.

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Global Health
4:39 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Dreaming Up A Safer, Cooler PPE For Ebola Fighters

This design of this new anti-Ebola suit will make health workers more comfortable and could also save lives.
Courtesy of Clinvue and Roy Heisler

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 4:32 pm

Here's what it takes to design a better Ebola suit: a roomful of university students and professors, piles of canvas and Tyvek cloth, sewing machines, glue guns ... and chocolate syrup.

Even Youseph Yazdi, head of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), still isn't sure what the syrup was for.

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