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. During 2014, he reported extensively on 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.

The southern African nation of Botswana has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world. Nearly 25 percent of all adults in the country are infected with the virus. Only the nearby kingdom of Swaziland has a higher rate.

But Botswana is also remarkable for its response to the epidemic. It has one of the most comprehensive and effective HIV treatment programs in Africa. Transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their fetuses and newborn babies has been brought down to just 4 percent.

Health officials in Kenya say reducing the transmission of HIV among gay men is a central part of their national AIDS strategy. But they face serious challenges, including the fact that homosexuality is still a crime in the East African nation.

HIV rates among gay and bisexual men in Kenya are far higher than the national average.

The African nation of Kenya is attempting to get more than 1 million men between the ages of 15 and 49 circumcised by the end of 2013. If successful, this could be a groundbreaking effort in the fight to curb the spread of HIV.

In the crowded heart of the Mexican capital, a fictional one-eyed private investigator shares a dingy flat with a flock of ducks and a rotating cast of lovers.

The central character in Paco Ignacio Taibo II's crime novels is Hector Belascoaran Shayne, a former engineer who got a "certificate in detection" through a correspondence course. Belascoaran is a cynical, bumbling private eye who marvels at the chaotic street life unfolding around him in Mexico City.

The Central American nation of Panama is booming. Fueled by a multibillion-dollar expansion of the Panama Canal, a thriving banking industry and capital flight from Venezuela, the tiny nation has the highest economic growth rate in the hemisphere.

But even as the government builds a subway system and markets the country as a tropical paradise for multinational corporations, not everyone is sharing in the prosperity.

Two giant ships move through the Panama Canal's two parallel channels at the Miraflores locks, heading toward the Pacific Ocean.

The orange and white Bow Summer is a tanker. The deck of the Ever Dynamic is stacked high with burgundy and blue shipping containers. More boats like these are backed up in both the Pacific and the Atlantic waiting to enter the narrow waterway.

Global trade has grown dramatically, but the Panama Canal — one of the most vital transit routes — hasn't changed its basic structure since it opened in 1914.

But that is about to change.

Crowds of people dressed in white and waving yellow flags lined the highway outside the Leon airport in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato to welcome Pope Benedict XVI. They cheered wildly when the grinning, 84-year-old pontiff sped past in his glass-sided popemobile.

The pope began his weeklong trip to Latin America on Friday afternoon. He's spending the weekend in Mexico before heading to Cuba.

Pope Benedict XVI begins a visit Friday that takes him to Mexico, a country with around 100 million Catholics, and to Cuba, a place where church leaders have played an increasingly active role in seeking change.

There are sensitive issues in both countries that the pope is likely to address in some form. In Mexico, it's the brutal drug war that has claimed roughly 50,000 lives over the past five years.

A series of fatal riots inside Mexican prisons last week and a deadly blaze at a penitentiary in Honduras are prompting calls for major penal reform in Central America.

Violence at three different penitentiaries in Mexico last week left 48 inmates dead, while the inferno in Honduras earlier this month killed 360 prisoners.

These deadly events underscore the problems of corruption, overcrowding, prison gangs and crumbling infrastructure that prisons face throughout the region.

Officials in Mexico are offering a reward of nearly $1 million for the capture of 30 inmates who broke out of a prison in the northern state of Nuevo Leon on Sunday.

The governor says the inmates staged a riot, during which 44 people died, to create a diversion for their escape.

It was a jail break that epitomized the Mexican drug war: Rival gang members brutally killed each other, corrupt public officials looked the other way, and dangerous criminals went free.

Earlier this month, the National Action Party of Mexico nominated the country's first ever female presidential candidate, economist Josefina Vazquez Mota. As Vazquez Mota accepted the nomination, she vowed to be the first woman to become the Mexican head of state.

The PAN, as the conservative party is known in Spanish, is Mexico's current ruling party. It has also put forth a woman, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, in Mexico City's mayoral race. Both elections take place on July 1.

Mexican Federal Police, some of them covered head to toe in white hazardous-materials suits, paraded Jaime Herrera Herrera in front of the media in handcuffs this week. Officials say he was the methamphetamine mastermind for Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who runs the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

The cholera outbreak in Haiti is currently the worst ongoing episode in the world.

Over the past 15 months, it has sickened more than half a million people and killed roughly 7,000. The bacteria has now spread throughout the Caribbean island, and medical experts say it will be around for years to come.

Partners in Health, a Boston-based nonprofit, is planning to launch an unprecedented cholera vaccination campaign to try to curb the outbreak — but it faces many challenges, including a shortage of the vaccine.

In the central Mexican state of Zacatecas, 76-year-old Genaro Rodarte Huizar rides his donkey along a dry riverbed. On his left is a dried out pasture; on his right is what used to be a cornfield; now it's just long furrows of gray, dusty dirt.

Rodarte says that for the past two years, the crops that he's planted here have failed. Normally, he plants beans and corn to feed his family, and oats to sell. He says he hasn't harvested anything because the land is too dry and there's no water.

Even before the devastating earthquake in 2010, Haiti's public health care system was perhaps the worst in the Western Hemisphere. Then the quake knocked down clinics, killed medical workers and severely damaged the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, the capital.

Now, the Boston-based group Partners in Health has set out to build a world-class teaching hospital in what used to be a rice field in the Haitian countryside.

On Jan. 12, for the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake, thousands of people flocked to the Shalom Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The "church" is just a plywood stage under a patchwork of tattered tarps.

The crowd was so large that it spilled down a muddy hill toward a tent camp for earthquake victims. Most of the singing, swaying congregation were so far away they couldn't even see the podium.

The evangelical mission now claims to have more than 50,000 members and one of the most popular radio stations in Haiti.

On Thursday, Haiti marked the second anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake. NPR's Jason Beaubien was back in the Caribbean nation for the quake memorials and he sent us this reporter's notebook about covering Haiti over the last few years.

Haiti is a land haunted by ghosts. My translator, Jean Pierre, won't shut up about the ghosts. He points toward some men plodding up the dusty street hauling huge bags of charcoal on their heads.

"Zombies," he declares. "Dead dudes are everywhere."

In Port-au-Prince, a radio blares from speakers in front of a guy selling pirated CDs on Delmas, a main street in the Haitian capital. Women sitting along the side of the road hawk everything from vegetables to cigarettes to pharmaceuticals. Overloaded tap-taps, the pickup trucks that serve as the main form of public transportation here, chug up the hill.

The scene is one that's remarkable for being unremarkable: Though it occurred this week, it could just as easily have been Port-au-Prince two years ago, before a massive earthquake destroyed much of the capital.

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