Nurith Aizenman | KGOU
KGOU

Nurith Aizenman

It was one of the worst moments of Durga's life: the morning her father suddenly announced that in about a week's time she would have to get married.

She was 15 years old. Her husband-to-be was in his 40s, had barely been to school and had a reputation as a heavy drinker. Even by the standards of their village in Northern India — where child marriages are still commonplace — this was a singularly bad match.

Georgina Mumba wasn't blind. Yet when she was in the fourth grade she was kept for months in a class for kids who couldn't see.

Then she was transferred to a class for the hearing impaired — even though Mumba wasn't deaf either.

Mumba's problem: At age 2, she contracted polio and essentially lost the use of her lower limbs. And in Zambia, where she's from, the educational options for physically disabled people are extremely limited.

What do Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Albania, Germany and Ethiopia have in common?

Turns out all five countries do better than average when it comes to turning their national wealth into a better life for their citizens.

There's also a list of countries that do worse than average. Spoiler alert: The United States is one of them.

This unusual gauge of national success is the brainchild of analysts at the Boston Consulting Group.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Ertharin Cousin heads the United Nations World Food Programme, but lately she sounds more like the captain of a ship facing some very ugly weather.

"We are seeing all the indicators of a perfect storm coming toward us in Southern Africa," Cousin said in a recent press call. "And we are saying that we have the opportunity to move this boat in a different direction and to avoid the storm."

Updated June 29 at 3:14 p.m.

Today Sotheby's attempted to auction the largest diamond discovered in over a century — a hunk of transparent rock the size of a tennis ball. It was found last November at an open-pit mine in the southern African country of Botswana. At 1,109 carats it's second in size only to the storied "Cullinan" diamond found in South Africa in 1905 and cut down into nine of the gems in the United Kingdom's Crown Jewels.

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.

What does helping a 3-year-old control her temper tantrums have to do with reducing global poverty? Quite a lot, says Dana McCoy.

Will this summer be hotter than average?

How much rain can we expect?

A key step to answering questions about the weather is to consult the historic record. But what if there were no record? That's the predicament that Rwanda faces. The civil war and genocide that devastated that country in 1994 also destroyed Rwanda's system for tracking weather. The result was that for a roughly 15-year stretch, Rwanda has almost no record of what its weather was like.

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).

World leaders have celebrated Earth Day today by gathering in New York to sign a historic climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But some of the most vital environmental work is being done by ordinary citizens with extraordinary courage. People like subsistence farmers and tribal leaders in the poorest countries are standing up to some of the world's most powerful industries. And a growing number of them have been attacked — and sometimes murdered — for trying to protect the environment.

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."

Editor's note: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed is the award-winning founder of one of the largest nongovernmental aid groups in the world. It's called BRAC, and it operates in 11 countries across Africa and Asia. On Friday Abed's colleagues at BRAC announced that he has died. He was 84 and was being treated for a brain tumor. In 2016 NPR interviewed Abed. In his memory we are re-posting that story.

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 boys and girls at the party are matched up by height. They dance together. Maybe they do a little grinding. They talk about love ... and marriage. Then they eat birthday cake.

That doesn't sound like a radical event. But in a predominantly conservative Muslim slum in the Indian city of Kolkata it was unheard of. And what made it happen? Lush, romantic Bollywood movies.

That's what Kabita Chakraborty learned after she began doing research in Kolkata.

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.

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