Jason Beaubien | Texas Public Radio

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.

"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.

Counterfeit drugs are a growing scourge around the world. They're generating millions of dollars in revenue for organized crime and fueling the rise of drug-resistant parasites.

Anti-malarials are among the most popular drugs to fake. But these faux pharmaceuticals are particularly dangerous because malaria can kill a person in a matter of days.

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.

The Nigerian government has been slow to fulfill a promise it made last spring. And, its sluggishness is putting kids at risk for lead poisoning, the advocacy group Humans Rights Watch says.

Last May, the Nigerian government pledged roughly $5 million to clean up lead contamination around illegal gold mines in northwest Nigeria. But so far, that money hasn't been released.

Pakistan has made a lot of progress this year in wiping out polio. There are signs that one type of poliovirus is gone and transmission of other strains seems to be slowing.

But a recent outbreak of polio there has health officials concerned about the overall effectiveness of the effort to eliminate polio in that country.

Malaria remains a huge problem in much of the world, but over the past decade the number of people getting sick and dying from the disease has gone down dramatically.

Health workers attribute much of this progress to the widespread use of artemisinin-based drugs. The problem now is that resistance to these drugs is starting to develop in Southeast Asia.

For malaria in Southeast Asia, there's good news and bad news right now. Overall, the number of cases is down, but there's a growing problem of drug resistance in the cases that do crop up.

Researchers worry that superstrains of the parasite — strains immune to the most common medications — could wipe out the recent progress against malaria.

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.

Gold in general has great PR. It's slick, it's hip, it's bling. But in a remote corner of West Africa, it's killing children.

Lead from illegal gold mines in northwestern Nigeria has sparked what Doctors Without Borders has called the worst case of environmental lead poisoning in years.

The catastrophe is part of the fallout from the collapse of the U.S. housing market.

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