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. He's covered mass circumcision drives in Kenya, 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 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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5:04am

Fri June 26, 2015
Goats and Soda

Polio Is Active In Only 3 Countries. Soon It Could Be Down To 2

Originally published on Fri June 26, 2015 7:35 am

At the health clinic in Minjibir, Nigeria, a child is immunized for polio.
David Gilkey NPR

Nigeria is on the verge of being polio-free. And that would mean that for the first time ever there's no ongoing polio transmission on the African continent.

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5:44am

Sat June 20, 2015
Goats and Soda

North Korea Announces Cure For MERS (As If)

Originally published on Sat June 20, 2015 7:55 am

To screen for MERS, an official at South Korea's customs gate checks the body heat of a worker arriving from North Korea.
JUNG YEON-JE AFP/Getty Images

As South Koreans continue to struggle with the worst outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, ever recorded outside the Middle East, their comrades to the north say, "We've got a cure for that!"

The World Health Organization says there's no known cure or vaccine for MERS, but state-run media in Pyongyang reports a wonder drug called Kumdang-2 will do the trick. The report makes no mention of whether Pyongyang is going to offer this miracle compound to its neighbor to the south. Or as the news agency puts it: "the Korean puppet authorities" in Seoul.

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2:29pm

Fri June 19, 2015
Goats and Soda

Why Ebola Won't Go Away In West Africa

Originally published on Sat June 20, 2015 1:19 am

A police officer guards the home of a family under a 21-day Ebola quarantine in Freetown, Sierra Leone, back in March.
Michael Duff AP

Ebola has dug in its heels.

Despite dramatic drops in the overall numbers of reported cases, Sierra Leone and Guinea are still struggling to stop the deadly disease.

Case tallies in both countries have dipped towards zero in the past few months, only to bounce back up. Sierra Leone reported 14 new cases this week and Guinea counted 10.

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5:13pm

Sun June 14, 2015
Goats and Soda

Why MERS Is Likely To Crop Up Outside The Middle East Again

Originally published on Mon June 15, 2015 2:09 pm

A dangerous nuzzle? A man in western Abu Dhabi hugs a camel brought in from Saudi Arabia for beauty contests. Middle East respiratory syndrome circulates in camels across the Arabian Peninsula.
Dave Yoder National Geographic

Blame it on the camels.

When scientists first detected Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012, the big question was: Where is this virus coming from?

For several years, scientists hunted the deadly virus across the Arabian Peninsula, and eventually they found at least one source — dromedary camels.

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1:14pm

Fri June 5, 2015
Goats and Soda

Behind The Story: What Made NPR Look Into Red Cross Efforts In Haiti?

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 9:01 pm

After the quake of 2010, a man stands on a rooftop yelling for any sign of his missing relatives in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood.
David Gilkey NPR

Where did the money go? An NPR and ProPublica investigation has raised troubling questions about what happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by the American Red Cross for earthquake relief in Haiti.

Goats and Soda posed a few questions to NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan about her work on this investigation.

What made you decide to look into the American Red Cross's earthquake recovery spending in Haiti?

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5:59pm

Wed June 3, 2015
Goats and Soda

MERS In South Korea Is Bad News But It's Not Yet Time To Panic

Originally published on Thu June 4, 2015 8:20 pm

A student wearing a face mask stands in a public square in Seoul on June 3. More than 200 primary schools shut down as South Korea has struggled to contain an outbreak of the MERS virus.
ED JONES AFP/Getty Images

Should the world be in a panic about MERS?

That's the global health question of the hour. South Korea is trying to get control of an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome. Officials have now confirmed 30 cases of the disease and two deaths. One of the patients traveled to China and remains hospitalized there. More than 1,000 people are now under quarantine in Hong Kong, China and South Korea as a result of the outbreak.

There's fear that MERS could be the next SARS, the respiratory virus that swept through the region in 2003, claiming hundreds of lives.

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3:46am

Fri May 29, 2015
Goats and Soda

New Jersey Lassa Fever Death Reveals Holes In Ebola Monitoring System

Originally published on Fri May 29, 2015 3:06 pm

The man who died of Lassa fever flew from West Africa to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

A man died of a hemorrhagic fever in New Jersey this week. This by itself is fairly unusual in the Garden State. Making the case even more odd was that the man was being monitored for Ebola by New Jersey health officials, and the case should have been caught earlier.

The events expose a hole in a public health system meant to track potential Ebola cases.

The 55-year-old New Jersey resident worked in the mining industry and traveled frequently to West Africa. Two weeks ago he landed at JFK International Airport after a flight from Liberia.

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3:32am

Wed May 27, 2015
Goats and Soda

As Antibiotic Resistance Spreads, WHO Plans Strategy To Fight It

Originally published on Sun May 31, 2015 9:44 pm

Patients receive treatment at the Chest Disease Hospital in Srinagar, India. The country has one of the highest rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the world, in part because antibiotics for the disease are poorly regulated by the government.
Dar Yasin AP

The world is losing some of the most powerful tools in modern medicine. Antibiotics are becoming less and less effective at fighting infections. The problem has gotten so bad that some doctors are starting to ponder a "post-antibiotic world."

Common infections that have been easily treatable for decades could become deadly if the current growth of antimicrobial resistance continues.

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3:42am

Thu May 21, 2015
Goats and Soda

WHO Calls For $100 Million Emergency Fund, Doctor 'SWAT Team'

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 8:00 pm

The Ebola outbreak "overwhelmed" the World Health Organization and made it clear the agency must change, WHO's director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, said Monday in Geneva.
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

Nearly 3,000 delegates from around the world are gathering this week in one of the most expensive cities in Europe to debate the fate of the World Health Organization.

There's one main question on the table: Will the WHO be given the power and money it needs to be the world's leading health agency, or will it plod forward in its current state — as a weak, bureaucratic agency of the U.N. known more for providing advice than taking action.

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3:25am

Wed May 20, 2015
Goats and Soda

She's Got One Of The Toughest Diseases To Cure. And She's Hopeful

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 2:44 pm

Jenny Tenorio Gallegos, 35, in Lima, Peru, is being treated for drug-resistant TB. The treatment lasts two years and may rob her of her hearing.
Jason Beaubien/NPR

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is not only airborne and lethal; it's one of the most difficult diseases in the world to cure.

In Peru, 35-year-old Jenny Tenorio Gallegos wheezes even when she's sitting still. That's because of the damage tuberculosis has done to her lungs. The antibiotics she's taking to treat extensively drug-resistant TB nauseate her, give her headaches, leave her exhausted and are destroying her hearing.

"At times I don't hear well," she says. "You have to speak loud for me to be able to understand."

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4:30pm

Tue May 19, 2015
Goats and Soda

Eyes In The Sky: Foam Drones Keep Watch On Rain Forest Trees

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 7:46 pm

A man and his drone: Carlos Casteneda of the Amazon Basin Conservation Association prepares to launch one of his plastic foam planes.
Jason Beaubien NPR

A couple of toy planes are out to catch illegal loggers and miners in the Amazon.

It's an awesome responsibility.

Every year, illegal logging and mining in the Peruvian Amazon destroy tens of thousands of acres of rain forest. The deforestation in remote parts of the jungle is difficult to detect while it's going on.

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3:24am

Tue May 19, 2015
Goats and Soda

They're Going Door To Door In The Amazon To See Why People Get Sick

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 10:14 am

Researchers meet participants: (from left) investigator Jose Luis Roca; Dr. Ernesto Ortiz; study participants Rainer Leon and his mother, Rina Leon Chanbilla; and nurse Jennifer Rampas.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Is it the mercury or the malaria?

Or maybe it's something else entirely that's making people sick in the Peruvian Amazon.

Those questions are bedeviling researchers from Duke University who have been studying gold mining in the region. Illegal mining has exploded in the area in the past decade, and the people living downriver have a variety of medical issues, from malaria to anemia to high blood pressure.

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6:06am

Sun May 17, 2015
Goats and Soda

Who Did This To Peru's Jungle?

Originally published on Sun May 17, 2015 3:52 pm

This aerial view shows the effects of gold mining on Peru's rain forest.
Courtesy of Gregory Asner, Carnegie Institution for Science

Gold has been a blessing and a curse for Peru for centuries. In the 16th century, one of the first Spanish explorers to arrive, Francisco Pizarro, was so enthralled by the mineral riches that he took the Inca king hostage.

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5:19pm

Fri May 15, 2015
Goats and Soda

What Should Liberia Do With Its Empty Ebola Treatment Units?

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 6:58 pm

A boot-drying rack sits empty at the Ministry of Defense Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia.
Jason Beaubien NPR

The plastic orange mesh fences that once separated Ebola patients in the "red zone" from visitors in the "green zone" have collapsed. Corrugated metal roofing sheets flap in the wind. Some of the tents that served as isolation wards are still in good shape, but many of the tarps used as partitions are torn and frayed.

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5:04am

Fri May 15, 2015
Goats and Soda

It's Like The Story Of Job: Ebola Survivors Who Continue To Suffer

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 12:13 pm

Moses Lasana recovered from Ebola, but he faces a range of medical issues and waves of pain. "The pain just come from one part of the body to another," he says.
Jason Beaubien/NPR

His mother named him Moses, but the story of Moses Lasana over the past year unfolds more like the story of Job: Adversity follows tragedy only to be topped off with pain.

Last summer, Moses Lasana's girlfriend, who was nine months pregnant with his child, got Ebola and died. He has two sons; one of them also got sick and died. Then he came down with the disease.

In September, Moses Lasana was cured of Ebola. That should have been good news for the 30-year-old Liberian. But his suffering continues.

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