Nurith Aizenman

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."

He's a Bangladeshi who's been knighted by the Queen of England. A former accountant who left an executive position at Shell Oil to devote himself to the world's poorest. And when it comes to eliminating poverty, he may be the most influential man you've never heard of. Meet Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and head of a nongovernmental international development organization called BRAC. Today the University of Michigan honors Abed, who is 80, with its Thomas Francis Jr.

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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Two weeks ago, Jenny Tolosa found out she was pregnant.

The 23-year-old had no idea. "I didn't have any symptoms," she says. "I totally didn't expect this." She giggles, because she was excited by the news.

But she was also worried. She says her first thought was, "I think I had Zika last December!"

That's the mosquito-borne virus that's spreading through Latin America — and has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, which causes an abnormally small head and possible brain damage.

If you're a government official, you don't want to get a call from Cees Klumper's office.

Because there's a good chance what you'll hear is basically this: "Either you send us back the money that was misused in the past, or we'll deduct double the amount from your future grants. It's your choice."

Maybe El Niño isn't as bad as its reputation.

El Niño is an ocean-warming phenomenon in the Pacific that crops up every few years and alters world weather patterns. And the world is in the middle of a big El Niño that roughly began in May 2015 and will continue for at least several more months this year.

This El Niño has already been linked to a series of weather-related disasters: Massive flooding in Paraguay. Drought in Ethiopia. Another looming food crisis in Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

What if your friend bragged that she'd just bought a brand of jeans because she'd checked out the company's practices and made sure they were ethical — no child labor, no polluting the environment by the manufacturer.

Maybe you'd thank her for the info, even be inspired to change your own buying habits.

But a study suggests a lot more of us would have an opposite reaction: "Boy," we'd think, "that friend is 'preachy' and 'less fashionable.' "

When a poor country is hit with a sudden catastrophe — say, an earthquake or a tsunami — the world is quick to send aid.

But a slow-moving disaster, the kind that unfolds over weeks or even months, is another story. There are no immediate, dramatic TV images, no screaming headlines.

And that means it's really tough for aid groups to raise the money needed.

Just ask John Graham. He's the head of the aid group Save the Children, and he's watching a slow-moving disaster unfold in Ethiopia as the world remains largely oblivious.

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