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 including the mobilization of massive circumcision drives in Kenya; how Botswana, with one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, has managed to provide free, life-saving drugs to almost all who need them; and why Brazil's once model HIV/AIDS program is seen in decline.

Prior to moving into this assignment in 2012, Beaubien spent four years a NPR foreign correspondent covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. From his base in Mexico City, Beaubien filed stories on politics in Cuba, hurricanes in Haiti, 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
3:07 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Taliban In Pakistan Derail World Polio Eradication

A health worker gives a child the polio vaccine in Bannu, Pakistan, June 25. More than a quarter-million children in Taliban-controlled areas are likely to miss their immunizations.
A. Majeed AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 4:04 pm

Last January Salma Jaffar was shot while she was going door to door in Karachi, giving children drops of the polio vaccine.

"Even when they took out the pistol, I couldn't understand why he was taking out the gun," Jaffar says of the two men who pulled up on a motorcycle and started shooting at the vaccination team.

"But when he opened fire, that is when I thought it was the end of the life," she says. "My first thought was that I won't be able to see my children again."

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Goats and Soda
2:17 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Rumor Patrol: No, A Snake In A Bag Did Not Cause Ebola

Eerie protective suits and shiny body bags have fueled rumors about the origins of Ebola. Here, a burial team removes the body of a person suspected to have died from the virus in the village of Pendembu, Sierra Leone.
Tommy Trenchard for NPR

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 7:17 pm

"A lady had a snake in a bag. When somebody opened the bag, that made the lady die."

That's the beginning of a story that Temba Morris often hears about the origins of Ebola. Morris runs a government health clinic in a remote village near Sierra Leone's border with Guinea. According to the story, somebody else then looked inside the bag.

"And the one who opened the bag also died," is what Morris hears next. The snake escaped into the Sierra Leone bush.

So there you have it: Ebola is an evil snake that will kill you if you look at it.

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Goats and Soda
4:25 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Ebola Is A Deadly Virus — But Doctors Say It Can Be Beaten

Sylvester Jusu is a volunteer who works with the Red Cross burial team in Sierra Leone.
Tommy Trenchard for NPR

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 7:34 pm

Saidu Kanneh was given a hero's welcome last week when he walked into a community meeting about Ebola in a tiny village of mud huts in the Kissi Kama region of Sierra Leone. Kanneh was diagnosed with Ebola early in July, was treated for 12 days in a Doctors Without Borders hospital and overcame the disease.

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NPR Story
9:14 am
Sun July 20, 2014

Facility Sets Up Extreme Precautions To Treat Ebola Patients

Originally published on Sun July 20, 2014 11:08 am

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. The worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded continues to spread in West Africa. And medical workers in Sierra Leone have responded by expanding an extraordinary field hospital. It opened less than a month ago, but it now has the largest Ebola isolation unit ever built, with 64 beds. NPR's Jason Beaubien visited and describes for us the infection control measures that go into treating this highly contagious disease.

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Africa
5:24 am
Wed July 16, 2014

West African Villagers Fear Ebola Will Escape From The Grave

Originally published on Wed July 16, 2014 9:32 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is getting worse. The World Health Organization has announced scores of new cases and dozens of deaths from the disease this month. Since the outbreak began in February, more than 600 people have died. The mounting toll is presenting families and health authorities with a grim new problem - what to do with the bodies. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports on how this dilemma is playing out in one town in eastern Sierra Leone.

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Global Health
3:09 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

To Combat Ebola Outbreak, Health Officials Call For 'Drastic' Action

Originally published on Thu July 3, 2014 5:26 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Africa
4:06 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Second Surge Of Ebola Strikes West Africa

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 1:19 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

An Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now the largest and most deadly outbreak of that virus ever recorded. The first cases were confirmed in Guinea in March. Health officials thought they had a handle on this. They did not. A rash of new cases popped up in neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. So we're going to talk about this with NPR's Jason Beaubien, who's been following the story. Hi, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What's going on?

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Global Health
3:32 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

As Death Count Rises, Health Officials Work To Stem Ebola's Spread

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 6:08 pm

The World Health Organization is reporting that the Ebola virus has yet to be contained in West Africa. It's one of the largest Ebola outbreaks in decades — with over 500 cases, some 330 of which ended in death.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Sports
5:34 pm
Sun June 8, 2014

The World Cup Reminds Us That All The World's A Soccer Field

Children play soccer in the village of Limon in the Peten region of northern Guatemala.
Jason Beaubien NPR

The global reach of soccer never ceases to amaze me. I travel all over the world, sometimes to incredibly remote areas. More often than not, when I get there, somebody is kicking around a soccer ball.

It doesn't matter if it's Asia or Africa or Central America. Kids make a goal out of a couple of backpacks, throw out a ball and the game is on. The "ball" could be a knotted towel or a tennis ball or a tattered leather shell that's barely holding air.

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Shots - Health News
4:06 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Thriving Towns In East Africa Are Good News For A Parasitic Worm

Fishermen drag a net in Lake Malawi in 2012. About the size of New Jersey, the lake is home to hundreds of fish species and is considered one of the most biologically diverse lakes in the world.
Ding Haitao Xinhua/Landov

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 5:17 pm

People trying to grow food and support their families on the shores of Lake Malawi are not only causing serious environmental problems, they're also causing a surge in a debilitating disease.

Thriving towns along the lake are changing the ecosystem in ways that are allowing a parasitic worm to flourish, researchers reported last week in the journal Trends in Parasitology.

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News
4:09 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

CIA Announces Plans To End Fake Vaccination Programs

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 7:16 pm

The White House announced that the CIA will stop using fake vaccination programs to further its spy operations. The decision comes after leaders from U.S. public health schools brought the practice to light.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
4:45 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

How U.S. Hospitals Are Planning To Stop The Deadly MERS Virus

Muslim pilgrims wear masks to prevent infection from the Middle East respiratory syndrome in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
Hasan Jamali AP

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 8:09 am

In the past month, Middle East respiratory syndrome has morphed from a little-known disease in the Arabian Peninsula to a major global health concern, with more than 300 cases in Saudi Arabia in April, 54 of them fatal.

Two cases have been reported in the U.S. as well — one in Indiana and one in Florida. Both men had worked in Saudi Arabia hospitals. So far, neither has spread the respiratory disease to others.

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Shots - Health News
3:21 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Gene Sequencing Could One Day Make Malaria Easier To Treat

A health official takes a blood sample from a child's finger for a malaria test at a clinic in Bong Ti Lang village on the Thai-Myanmar border.
Narong Sangnak EPA /LANDOV

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 1:30 pm

Malaria has proved one of the hardest diseases on the planet to treat. The World Health Organization estimates there are nearly 200 million cases each year, and the parasitic infection is blamed for some 700,000 deaths annually.

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Shots - Health News
5:09 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

The Comeback Of Polio Is A Public Health Emergency

On the outskirts of Islamabad, a Pakistani health worker vaccinates an Afghan refugee against polio.
Muhammed Muheisen AP

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 3:25 pm

It is, says the World Health Organization, "an extraordinary event." Polio is spreading to a degree that constitutes a public health emergency.

The global drive to wipe out the virus had driven the number of polio cases down from 300,000 in the late 1980s to just 417 cases last year. The World Health Organization has set a goal of wiping out polio by 2018.

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Global Health
3:02 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

To Fight Polio Outbreaks, WHO Lays Down New Rules

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 8:31 am

The World Health Organization is warning that recent outbreaks of polio in the Middle East, Africa and Asia mark a setback to the decades-long effort to eradicate the disease. In response, the WHO has declared a world health emergency. It's asking Syria, Pakistan and Cameroon — current polio hot spots — to require all travelers leaving those countries to show proof of vaccination.

Shots - Health News
2:30 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Mysterious Kidney Disease Slays Farmworkers In Central America

Loved ones express their grief at the burial of Ramon Romero Ramirez in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua, January 2013. The 36-year-old died of chronic kidney disease after working in the sugar cane fields for 12 years. Ramirez is part of a steady procession of deaths among cane workers.
Ed Kashi VII

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 6:32 am

Manuel Antonio Tejarino used to be a lean, fit field hand. During the sugar cane harvest, he'd swing a machete for hours, hacking at the thick, towering stalks.

Now Tejarino is slumped in a faded, cloth deck chair outside his sister's house on the outskirts of Chichigalpa, Nicaragua.

Tejarino's kidneys are failing. He's grown gaunt. His arms droop by his side. In the tropical midday heat, he alternates between wiping sweat off his brow and pulling a sweatshirt up over his bare chest.

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Global Health
3:04 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Deadly Disease Out Of Middle East Draws Concerns Of Pandemic

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 3:21 pm

Cases of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, are on the rise in Saudi Arabia. That's prompting concern among public health officials that the MERS virus has become more virulent.

Shots - Health News
5:38 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Why The U.S. Is Worried About A Deadly Middle Eastern Virus

Fearful of catching the MERS virus, workers wear masks during a soccer match on April 22 at King Fahad stadium in Riyadh.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 6:52 am

UPDATE at 4:17 p.m. Friday: Saudi Arabia has confirmed 313 cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, including 92 deaths, the Ministry of Health said Friday. Of note, one of the 14 new patients caught the virus while working as a hospital receptionist.

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Shots - Health News
6:38 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Sharp Rise In MERS Cases May Mean The Virus Is Evolving

An Egyptian Muslim prays during a ritual in Mina, Saudi Arabia, October 2013. Some people wore masks during the hajj pilgrimage last year to protect against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
Amr Nabil AP

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 6:46 am

There's growing concern that the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome may have entered a new phase in the way it's spreading in Saudi Arabia.

The country has reported a sharp uptick in MERS cases over the past week. Since the deadly respiratory virus was first detected in September 2012, a total of 244 cases have been found in Saudi Arabia. About 50 of those cases were reported in the past six days.

Neighboring United Arab Emirates has also reported a rise in cases in the past week.

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Africa
7:12 am
Sat April 19, 2014

Polio Threatens To Spread Through Central Africa

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 10:46 am

Transcript

WADE GOODWYN, HOST:

In Central Africa, there are new fears that polio is on the move. Polio cases in Cameroon have spread to the tiny country of Equatorial Guinea, and there's concern it could spread even further in the region. Significant progress against polio has been made in much of the world this year. But global efforts to eradicate the virus could face a setback if polio gets a foothold in central Africa. Here's NPR's Jason Beaubien.

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Shots - Health News
2:29 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Polio Hits Equatorial Guinea, Threatens Central Africa

A child receives a polio vaccine Sunday in Kano, Nigeria. The country is the primary source of the virus in Africa but appears to be making progress against the disease; the current outbreak in Cameroon that has spread to Equatorial Guinea came by way of Chad, not Nigeria.
Sunday Alamba AP

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 6:41 am

Health officials are worried.

After being free of polio for nearly 15 years, Equatorial Guinea has reported two cases of the disease.

The children paralyzed are in two distant parts of the country. So the virus may have spread widely across the small nation.

The outbreak is dangerous, in part, because Equatorial Guinea has the worst polio vaccination rate in the world: 39 percent. Even Somalia, teetering on the brink of anarchy, vaccinates 47 percent of its children.

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Shots - Health News
11:01 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Global Aid For Health Hits Record High As Funding Sources Shift

A pregnant Somali woman gets a tetanus shot at a clinic in Mogadishu in 2013. The vaccination initiative was launched by the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
Carl de Souza AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 8, 2014 2:58 pm

International development aid has hit an all-time high, despite some nations dramatically slashing their foreign assistance budgets. As patterns of international assistance shift, an increasing amount of money is being invested in improving health in the developing world.

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Shots - Health News
3:31 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

To Save Her Husband's Life, A Woman Fights For Access To TB Drugs

Oxana and Pavel Rucsineanu fell in love while living at a tuberculosis ward in Balti, Moldova.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 8:13 pm

One year ago Pavel Rucsineanu was running out of options.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis was ravaging his lungs. And the disease had evolved into an incurable form, doctors said.

It's like an "infectious cancer," Dr. Tetru Alexandriuc said at the time. "We have no other medicines" to treat Pavel, the doctor added. Although he wouldn't say it, the doctor expected TB would kill Pavel.

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Shots - Health News
5:12 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Stopping Microbes Not Missiles: U.S. Plans For Next Global Threat

Hannah Rood, 3, receives an H1N1 vaccine at a clinic in San Pablo, California, during the 2009 swine flu epidemic.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 6:58 pm

Spot the next plague before it arrives. Predict the next swine flu outbreak before it makes headlines. Even detect a biological weapon before it's launched.

These are the goals of an ambitious initiative, launched Thursday, to build a worldwide surveillance system for infectious diseases.

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Shots - Health News
6:20 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Cancer Cases Rising At An Alarming Rate Worldwide

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men in the West, while lung and liver cancers are the top problems in Asia.
Courtesy of the World Health Organization

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 7:20 am

As countries modernize around the world, they're increasingly being hit with one of the curses of wealth: cancer.

There are about 14 million new cancer cases globally each year, the World Health Organization reported Monday. And the trend is only getting worse.

The global burden of cancer will grow by 70 percent over the next two decades, the WHO predicts, with an estimated 22 million new cases and 13 million deaths each year by 2032.

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Shots - Health News
11:29 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Access To Toilets And Books Improves Life For Kids Across The Globe

Palestinian girls read the Koran at a camp in Gaza City, June 2012. In poor countries, boys are 20 percent more likely than girls to enroll in school, UNICEF says.
Mahmud Hams AFP/Getty Images

The world is in the midst of a porcelain revolution.

Nearly 2 billion people have gained access to clean toilets, or at least a decent outhouse, since 1990, the nonprofit UNICEF reports Thursday.

That rise in sanitation has led to big health improvements, the agency says, because contaminated drinking water is still a major cause of disease and death for children.

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Shots - Health News
7:15 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Overweight People In Developing World Outnumber Those In Rich Countries

Government workers exercise at their office in Mexico City, August 2013. To counter the obesity epidemic, the city requires all government employees to do at least 20 minutes of exercise each day.
Tomas Bravo Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 7:06 am

People are getting fatter around the world. And the problem is growing most rapidly in developing countries, researchers reported Friday.

"Over the last 30 years, the number of people who are overweight and obese in the developing world has tripled," says Steve Wiggins, of the Overseas Development Institute in London.

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Shots - Health News
2:24 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Why Ending Malaria May Be More About Backhoes Than Bed Nets

Yonta, 6, rests with her brother Leakhena, 4 months, under a mosquito bed net in the Pailin province of Cambodia, where deaths from malaria have decreased sharply in the past two decades.
Paula Bronstein Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 7:16 am

Wiping out malaria is a top goal for many leaders in global health.

Fewer people are dying now from the mosquito-borne disease than at any other time in history. "And there's a very, very strong belief now that malaria can be eliminated," says Joy Phumaphi, who chairs the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.

But when you look at the overall numbers on malaria, eradication almost seems like a pipe dream.

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Shots - Health News
3:02 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Simple, Cheap Health Remedies Cut Child Mortality In Ethiopia

Almaz Acha sits with her baby Alentse at her home in the rural community of Sadoye, in southern Ethiopia. Families in rural communities, like this one, have benefited from Ethiopia's health extension program.
Julien Behal PA Photos /Landov

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 11:48 am

Poor countries are starting to realize something that richer ones sometimes forget: Basic, inexpensive measures can have dramatic impacts on the health of a country. And they can save thousands of lives.

Take, for instance, the situation in Ethiopia.

The country used to have one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world.

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Parallels
4:00 am
Sat December 28, 2013

Rushing Toward Chaos: Covering The Aftermath Of Typhoon Haiyan

A boy stands in the ruins of the leveled a neighborhood in Tacloban. Food and water supplies were almost nonexsistent in the days immediately after the storm.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 6:00 pm

It felt like a dream.

The Marines kept flying over us all night long. Their hulking C-130 cargo planes rattled the tarp we'd jerry-rigged above our heads. NPR photographer David Gilkey and I were lying in sleeping bags next to the runway of the destroyed Tacloban airport. We'd arrived a few hours earlier in the back of one of those military aircraft. Now we were just waiting for daybreak.

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