Nurith Aizenman | KUOW News and Information

Nurith Aizenman

How do you get boys to treat girls as their equals?

The question is an urgent one in India – where women face some of the world's highest rates of sexual violence and domestic abuse. Many groups are trying to combat the problem with programs to empower girls and women. But the founders of a non-profit called the Equal Community Foundation, or ECF, contend that's only half the answer: They say, you also need to change the mindset of boys.

The United States spends more on international aid than any other nation — more than $32 billion a year. Yet it has come in near the bottom of a newly released ranking that scores the wealthiest nations according to how much they help the world's poorest people.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the famously generous Scandinavian nations lead the pack — Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada rank fairly high as well. The United States, by contrast, falls 21st out of 27 — just behind Hungary, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic.

What if you could never get a good night's rest? Some low-income people around the world face that challenge. A team of researchers is investigating whether sleep deprivation keeps some in poverty. (This piece originally aired on All Things Considered on Dec. 2, 2015.)

It's 11 at night in a busy commercial section of Chennai, a city of nearly 5 million in Southern India. All around me people are sleeping in the open air. Men are curled up in the back of rickshaw wagons. Entire families camp out in shelters made of cardboard and tarp. A woman in a blue sari smiles and waves for me to come over.

She tells me her name is Anjalai — like some in this part of India, she goes by only one name — and says she's got the most basic setup: a woven blue mat laid out on a patch of dirt by the side of the street.

Blame it on France.

China is the most troubling example of a government using national policy to engineer the size of its population with its decades-long one-child policy.

But the idea has its roots in late 19th century France. And it was expanded on in the mid-20th century by scholars in the United States, who helped create the environment of overpopulation fear in which Chinese leaders adopted their draconian approach.

Mahendra Sharma is director of an unusual charity: It's effectively a boarding school for child brides. It's called the Veerni Institute and it provides free room, board, health care and schooling to about 70 girls from villages surrounding the northern city of Jodhpur. Child marriage is a long-standing practice in these villages, and about 30 of the students at Veerni are already married. They may be as young as 9 or 10 when they are married, but normally they aren't sent to live with their husbands until around age 15.

Nimmu is 15 years old. She comes from a rural village in northern India, and she's been married since she was 10.

This year she's trying to change her fate.

In Nimmu's village, when you're married young, you don't move in with your husband right away. You stay with your own parents until around your 15th birthday. That's when they send you to your in-laws.

From what Nimmu has seen, you basically lose your freedom at that point. The in-laws assign whatever chores they see fit. And you're expected to follow their orders without question or complaint.

If you fall seriously ill in Poland you can count on good care at a private hospital but should probably steer clear of the public ones.

In Botswana, an otherwise survivable road accident could prove deadly owing to lack of good care. But in some areas of neighboring Namibia there's a decent chance emergency medical personnel can stabilize you.

And if you have a heart attack, your ticker should be in good hands in Sao Paulo.

It's an open secret among journalists: When reporting a major news story in an unfamiliar country, it's great to have a "fixer."

That's the catch-all term we use for our local guides to language and logistics — the people who can translate documents, interpret during interviews and generally help you figure out the most efficient and the safest way to get from one location to the next.

This fall world leaders plan to convene at the United Nations to commit to some sweeping goals: By 2030 they want to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere. Also on the agenda: End hunger, stop all preventable deaths of newborns and children, and halt epidemics of diseases such as AIDS and malaria.

In 2000 the world's leaders agreed on an ambitious plan to drastically reduce global poverty by 2015. Called the Millennium Development Goals, the targets spurred an unprecedented aid effort that brought lifesaving medicines and vaccines to millions of people and helped slash the share of people in the developing world who live in extreme poverty from 47 percent in 1990 to 14 percent today.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When Elynn Walter walks into a room of officials from global health organizations and governments, this is how she likes to get their attention:

"I'll say, 'OK, everyone stand up and yell the word blood!' or say, 'Half of the people in the world have their period!' "

It's her way of getting people talking about a topic that a lot of people, well, aren't comfortable talking about: menstrual hygiene.

It seems like a no-brainer: Offer kids a reward for showing up at school, and their attendance will shoot up. But a recent study of third-graders in a slum in India suggests that incentive schemes can do more harm than good.

You get a visit by someone you've never met before. You're invited on an all-expense paid trip to your country's biggest city for a two-day meeting on natural gas policy.

Oh, and if you show up you get a free cellphone!

It might sound sketchy. But it's actually an innovative strategy that is being tested by researchers at a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank, the Center for Global Development, or CGD, to help the African nation of Tanzania decide how to spend its expected windfall from new discoveries of natural gas.

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, more about the woman who's building the case against those six officers. Marilyn Mosby is 35 years old. She just took the office of chief prosecutor in Baltimore four months ago. NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports.

West Africa is about to receive a hefty infusion of cash. This Friday the World Bank unveiled a major aid package for the three West African countries at the center of this past year's Ebola epidemic.

How often does this happen: You're listening to a news story describing some problem halfway around the world and you say to yourself, "I know how to fix that!" It's not your area of expertise. It's not a place you know. But you are sure that if you went there you could solve the problem.

Michelle Niescierenko is a pediatric emergency physician at Boston Children's Hospital. But for the past five months she has been in Liberia, helping the country's 21 public hospitals get back on their feet after the devastating Ebola outbreak there. She says the challenges they face are shocking.

"Almost all the hospitals that we worked with in Liberia are running on generators," she says. The trouble with generators is that they require fuel.

Domestic violence is never OK. Yet in 29 countries around the world, one-third or more of men say it can be acceptable for a husband to "beat his wife." Perhaps more surprising: In 19 countries, one-third or more of women agree that a husband who beats his wife may be justified, at least some of the time.

Officials and activists from around the world gathered in New York this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark 1995 World Conference on Women.

Although there were a lot of depressing statistics discussed at the current meeting, there was one piece of good news that many kept citing as reason for hope: Since 1995 the rate of women worldwide who die in childbirth has dropped by more than 40 percent.

Midtown New York City is buzzing with thousands of women's rights activists. They're in town for a milestone session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which runs through the end of next week.

How's this for a tough first week on the job: An earthquake rocked Haiti just five days after physician Rajiv Shah took over as head of the main U.S. agency for overseas disaster relief. The death toll was about 200,000. The U.S. was scrambling to mobilize a response. And President Obama decided Shah should be the one to lead it.

"The president called and said 'Raj, I hope you'll make us proud,'" Shah recalls of the 2010 disaster. "And I felt a deep passion and commitment to do that. So I was excited. But I was also frankly overwhelmed by the amount of work we had to do."

For six weeks, American doctor Kwan Kew Lai kept a blog, almost every day, while she volunteered at an Ebola treatment center in Liberia.

Ebola treatment centers are isolated, self-contained worlds, with their own grim rhythm: Every day, people stream in, terribly sick. And in the space of a few days, they either live or they die. Then the next wave arrives. Because the risk of infection from Ebola is so high, access to the ETUs has been severely limited. So we've had only brief glimpses into them.

Tomorrow Morning Edition will broadcast an audio documentary based on a blog by American doctor Kwan Kew Lai. Starting last October, Dr. Lai wrote almost every day, for six weeks, while volunteering at an Ebola treatment center in Bong, Liberia.

The news is filled with stories of people in need. Perhaps they've just lived through an earthquake. Or they're war refugees. Or they're facing a deadly epidemic like Ebola.

Your heart goes out to them. And you're gratified that your government and other major donors are stepping in with a massive infusion of cash and other aid.

But how do we know if all that help is actually, well, helpful.

Wedding dress rentals are way down. Condoms are no longer a hot item. And prostitutes are having trouble finding customers.

Blame it all on Ebola.

With at least 300 new cases a week in Sierra Leone, the virus is altering practically every aspect of life. And life, well, life includes love and sex. Even illicit sex.

So we wanted to find out how the epidemic has impacted these more ... intimate facets of daily experience for residents of the capital, Freetown.

No cars for the teams seeking Ebola cases. Not enough ambulances to get the sick to the hospital quickly. And no cups for patients to drink from.

That's how bad things have been in a remote Eastern district of Sierra Leone called Kono.

Kono District is a land of towering mountains and muddy diamond mines. It's right next to the region where the Ebola outbreak first started. Still, for a long time, it looked as if the virus was mostly bypassing the place.

If you think the fight against Ebola is going well, here's a grim new number: 537.

That's how many new infections were reported in Sierra Leone in the past week. It's the highest weekly tally in any country since the West African outbreak began.

International governments and aid groups have scrambled to open Ebola treatment centers in the country. But, because of safety concerns, many of these centers are accepting only a fraction of the number of patients they were built to serve.

Ebola is on the rise in Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown. Just this week, 234 new confirmed infections were reported, and every day hundreds of residents call the emergency line to report more possible cases in their neighborhoods.

To deal with the surge, the nation sends health surveillance teams into the community to investigate the alerts, visiting up to five homes a day to check on residents.

The junior member of one team is Osman Sow, a young man with a wisp of a beard and a serious manner.

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