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 issues across the world. He's covered the plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, mass cataract surgeries in Ethiopia, abortion in El Salvador, poisonous gold mines in Nigeria, drug-resistant malaria in Myanmar and tuberculosis in Tajikistan. He was part of a team of reporters at NPR that won a Peabody Award in 2015 for their extensive coverage of 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 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.

South Africa has come a long way in dealing with AIDS. The country has been successful in getting drug treatment to millions of people infected with HIV.

But the country still has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world — and the virus continues to spread. Nearly 400,000 South Africans are infected with HIV each year.

One health clinic in the heart of Johannesburg is attempting to break the HIV cycle by focusing on people at extremely high risk for infection — prostitutes.

South Africa has more people with HIV than any other country in the world.

Roughly 5.5 million of its 53 million citizens are infected with the virus. In some of the hardest hit parts of the country, one-third of women of childbearing age are HIV positive.

Now, after years of delay and mistakes, South Africa is transforming how it approaches the disease.

A viable, effective vaccine against malaria has long eluded scientists. Results from a preliminary study have ignited hope that a new type of vaccine could change that.

The experimental vaccine offered strong protection against malaria when given at high doses, scientists report Thursday in the journal Science.

The study was extremely small and short-term. And the candidate vaccine still has a long way to go before it could be used in the developing world.

From the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg, shack dwellers can look across a ravine to the spires of Sandton City, which houses the most lavish shopping mall in sub-Saharan Africa.

Alex, as this slum of roughly a half a million people is known, was home to Nelson Mandela when he first moved to Johannesburg in 1941.

Somalia hadn't had a case of polio for nearly six years. But in the past few months, the virus has come back. Now the East African country has the worst polio outbreak anywhere in the world.

Twenty new cases of polio were reported this week in Somalia by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. That brings the total number of cases in the Horn of Africa to 73. The rest of the world combined has tallied only 59 cases so far this year.

While South Africa celebrates the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela on Thursday, the former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate remains at a Pretoria hospital, where he's been hospitalized since June 8 with a recurring lung infection.

The World Health Organization has issued revised guidelines saying that people with HIV should be put on antiviral drugs far earlier than was previously recommended. The hope is that most patients would get started on treatment before they begin to get extremely sick.

It's a move that could have huge implications for African nations where millions of people are infected with HIV. In South Africa roughly 5.5 million people are living with HIV — more than any other country in the world. South Africa also has more people in treatment than anywhere else.

The Central Asian nation of Tajikistan has huge rivers. They begin atop some of the world's highest mountains and then flow west through the country's lush, green valleys. Yet for many Tajik families, getting enough water each day is still a struggle.

Four-year-old Orion Qurbonaliev is lucky to be alive. Just last February, the little boy was lying comatose in the tuberculosis ward of a hospital in southern Tajikistan. The bacteria had spread to his spine and paralyzed the right side of his body. He was severely dehydrated and malnourished.

The staff on the government-run ward had run out of options for treating Orion. "They just left this kid to die," says Tina Martin, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders.

A big worry among people trying to wipe out polio is that the virus will regain a foothold, somewhere to launch a comeback — someplace, perhaps, like Somalia.

Polio has paralyzed 25 kids in Somalia and another six in a Kenyan refugee camp since early May, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported Wednesday. Before this outbreak, Somalia hadn't had a polio case in more than five years.

Forms of tuberculosis are emerging that are costly, difficult and at times, nearly impossible to treat. This new, worldwide threat is called multidrug-resistant TB, and it occurs when the bacteria no longer respond to the most common TB medications. Doctors have to turn, instead, to older, less effective drugs that can have devastating side effects such as hearing loss, blindness, aches and severe depression.

Oxana and Pavel Rucsineanu fell in love under the drug-induced haze of powerful tuberculosis medications. It was the summer of 2008. They were both in their late 20s, and they should have been in the prime of their lives.

Researchers in California described Wednesday their new method for mass-producing the key ingredient for the herbal drug artemisinin, the most powerful antimalarial on the market. Already, the French drugmaker Sanofi is ramping up production at a plant in Italy to manufacture the ingredient and the drug.

Global health advocates say they expect this new method of producing artemisinin will at last provide a stable supply of the drug and cut the overall cost of malaria treatment.

Polio is on the verge of being eliminated. Last year there were just over 200 cases of polio, and they occurred in just two remote parts of the world — northern Nigeria and the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border region.

A new $5.5 billion plan being pushed by the World Health Organization strives to eliminate polio entirely, phase out vaccination campaigns and secure polio vaccine stockpiles in case the virus somehow manages to re-emerge.

If the effort is successful, polio would be just the second disease in human history, after smallpox, to be eliminated by medical science.

After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, governments and foundations from around the world pledged more than $9 billion to help get the country back on its feet.

Only a fraction of the money ever made it. And Haiti's President Michel Martelly says the funds aren't "showing results."

Over the past few decades, one of the most perplexing questions in global health is how to stop HIV.

There have been campaigns involving condoms, abstinence and even the circumcision of all men younger than 46. But one relatively new strategy, called treatment as prevention, is causing quite a buzz.

Three years after the devastating Port-au-Prince earthquake, one of the largest international relief projects in Haiti isn't anywhere near where the quake hit. It's an industrial park on the north coast halfway between Cap-Haitien and the border with the Dominican Republic.

Aid agencies are pouring millions of dollars into the project to encourage people to move out of the overcrowded capital and create jobs. Critics, however, say the jobs don't pay enough to lift people out of poverty.

Haiti used to be a tourist hot spot in the Caribbean. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton regularly recounts how he and Hillary honeymooned in Haiti in 1975. There used to be a hopping Club Med just outside Port-au-Prince, but it closed in the '90s.

Now, the Haitian government is trying to revive some of its former allure, launching an aggressive campaign to market the poorest country in the hemisphere as a vacation hub.

President Michel Martelly says tourism could be a major driver of economic growth and could help lift Haitians out of poverty.

Saturday marks the third anniversary of the powerful earthquake that destroyed much of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The quake killed roughly 200,000 people and left 1.5 million Haitians homeless.

Despite billions of dollars in international aid and pledges to help Haiti rebuild from the disaster, very little new, permanent housing has been built. And about 350,000 Haitians are still living in squalid, makeshift camps — where they face an array of health challenges.

Most of us do everything possible to avoid mosquitoes. But one Italian researcher literally sacrifices her right arm to keep the lowly insects alive.

Chiara Adolina is studying a new malaria drug, and she needs the little suckers for her experiments. So she feeds them each day with her own blood.

She extends her arm into a mosquito cage to give the insects "breakfast." Several dozen mosquitoes spread across her forearm and jam their proboscises into her skin. "Can you see how fat they become?" she says. "Look at that tummy."

"Her business is robbery and coldblooded murder ... they call her Annie Awful ... She's a thief and a killer. She stops at nothing."

Those lines sound like they're from an old detective movie, but they're actually from a 1943 public health cartoon aimed at preventing malaria. That dangerous dame, Annie Awful, is Anopheles — the family of mosquitoes that transmits the malaria parasite.

Global efforts to combat malaria are under threat from new strains of drug-resistant malaria, which are cropping up in Southeast Asia.

Over the last decade, the number of malaria deaths around the world has dropped sharply, from just over 1 million in 2000 to roughly 600,000 last year.

Much of that progress is due to the widespread use of drugs containing artemisinin. The new malaria drugs quickly kill the parasite.

Polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in the early 1990s. It was stamped out in Europe a few years later. And now, even the Congo and Somalia are polio free.

But in Africa's largest oil-producing nation, Nigeria, polio has been a difficult, contentious foe.

Sixty years ago, polio was one of the most feared diseases in the U.S.

As the weather warmed up each year, panic over polio intensified. Late summer was dubbed "polio season." Public swimming pools were shut down. Movie theaters urged patrons not to sit too close together to avoid spreading the disease. Insurance companies started selling polio insurance for newborns.

The fear was well grounded. By the 1950s, polio had become one of the most serious communicable diseases among children in the United States.

Across a swath of northern Nigeria, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding, as lead from illegal gold mines sickens thousands of children.

More than 400 kids have died, and many more have been mentally stunted for life.

Doctors Without Borders, which has set up clinics to treat the children, is calling it one of the worst cases of environmental lead poisoning in recent history.

A large children's hospital in Durban, South Africa, is being rebuilt two decades after it closed owing to apartheid. It opened in 1931 as a facility for all races, but racial tensions in the 1980s forced its closure.

Now with Durban and the surrounding province of KwaZulu-Natal extremely hard hit by AIDS and tuberculosis, local leaders are hopeful they can begin reopening the hospital early in 2013.

In the U.S., the pap smear has become a routine part of women's health care, and it's dramatically reduced cervical cancer deaths. But in Africa and other impoverished regions, few women get pap smears because the countries lack the laboratories and other resources necessary to offer them.

The statistics on HIV and AIDS in South Africa are daunting.

In a country of 50 million people, more than 5.5 million people are living with HIV and almost 2 million people are on HIV drug treatment. Each year, roughly 300,000 more South Africans are infected with HIV, and half a million come down with tuberculosis.

Brazil's HIV/AIDS program — which has been praised as a model for developing nations — is now under strain.

When HIV first emerged in the 1980s, Brazil responded quickly to the epidemic. The South American country launched large-scale safe-sex drives and gave away millions of condoms. It offered free treatment to anyone who was infected. The Brazilian government took on international pharmaceutical companies and even broke patents to cut medication costs.

Yesterday the Food and Drug Administration gave the first green light on a drug to prevent HIV transmission.

Many experts say the drug will help hasten the end of the AIDS pandemic. But experts in Brazil say the drug alone isn't the answer.

One of the drug trials the FDA considered was done at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation Research Institute, also known as Fiocruz, in Rio de Janeiro.

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