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
2:20 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 4:29 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
2:28 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 5:08 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
8:40 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 10:37 am

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
8:34 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 12:51 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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Goats and Soda
9:43 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 9:48 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
4:25 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 6:43 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
4:12 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
3:40 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
2:38 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 7:34 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
8:55 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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