Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Jul 29

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Too often stories that examine family planning, adolescent exposure to HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and access to primary education for girls are considered soft news. Features routinely relegated to “Special Topics” or the SundayOutlook and Style sections.

The reality is that the challenges of population growth, environmental degradation, corporate greed, food security and even violent extremism can be traced back to these same issues with girls’ health, education, and human rights at the core.

Depriving girls of access to education has political, policy and legal ramifications to name but a few. And coverage of the tragedy still unfolding in northern Nigeria and elsewhere demonstrates that there’s a widespread, diverse and engaged audience to drive traffic to news organizations that prioritize stories on this subject.

Read Jennifer Koons’s full report from Niger here

TAXI TROUBLE IN THAILAND

Bangkok’s legion of motorcycle taxi drivers—an estimated 200,000 of them—provided key logistical support to anti-government protesters in the spring of 2010. “(T)hey carried messages, money, and materials to the protesters, including the makings of Molotov cocktails,” writes Pulitzer Center grantee Richard Bernstein in a dispatch for The New York Review of Books.

Since then, the drivers have also come of age politically, which may pose a serious problem for the military junta that took control of the country earlier this year. According to Richard, “people like the motorcycle taxi drivers are no longer the country bumpkins who used meekly to submit to authority. They are a politically engaged population spread across the heart of the capital, on every street corner—part of an electoral majority that has challenged the power of unelected governments again and again, and they aren’t going away.”

A former foreign correspondent for The New York Times and Time magazine, Richard is working on a series of stories about Thailand, a key U.S. ally in Southeast Asia that appears to be drifting away from the path of democracy.

THE REAL REFUGEE CRISIS

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a rare island of stability in a sea of extremist-fueled turmoil. But this blessing comes at a cost: “Jordan’s real crisis is not the threat of encroaching extremism, but the grinding weight of hosting victims from the region’s various humanitarian emergencies. The technical name for this is a “protracted refugee crisis”—a burden that Jordan uniquely bears as host to more than a million refugees and asylum seekers from surrounding conflicts,” writes Pulitzer Center grantee Alice Su in her story for The Atlantic.

“Since 2011, Jordan’s 6.3 million people have taken on roughly an additional 600,000 Syrians, who join about 29,000 Iraqis and some 4,000 refugees from Sudan, Somalia, and other countries, along with thousands more who remain unregistered with UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. If this were the United States, it would be as if Canada’s entire population moved in virtually at once.”

Alice, whose reporting on this subject also appears on Al Jazeera’s website, is looking at the lives of refugees, how they impact host countries, and how they are ultimately forced to reinvent themselves.

A PITCH FOR TAR SANDS PROJECT

Pulitzer Center grantees Dan Grossman and Alex MacLean, who recently flew a small plane over the Canadian wilderness to document the environmental costs of the Keystone XL pipeline, have turned to Indiegogo, the international crowdfunding site, to raise $10,000 to fund additional reporting on the project.

The Pulitzer Center is pleased to announce that we will match the next $3,000 that Dan and Alex are able to raise. Dan’s reporting and Alex’s unique aerial photography of the Alberta tar sands have already appeared in GlobalPostHuffington PostFast Company and on PRI’s The World. If you would like to see more on this critical story, we urge you to visit the Indiegogo site and add your name to the list of contributors.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor

I don’t think Brazilians have processed their ignominious exit from the World Cup. It will take some time to fully register. For now it seems like people just want to move on with their lives and hope the federal government will start concentrating on the social, educational, and public health improvements that so much of the country desperately needs. A few go so far as to say that they are happy Brazil lost—all of the corruption and excess involved in hosting the tournament might have been swept under the rug with a victory. Brazil needed a wake-up call. 

Check out Matthew Niederhauser’s project, Brazil: The Real World Cup

Jul 28

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There is no way to treat patients who don’t know that they have TB, and it’s estimated that a person with TB who goes untreated will infect between 10 and 15 people every year. So even if things inside the walls of a hospital are running smoothly, it is what is happening outside the clinics and hospitals that is most important.

If there is a good health system in the cities but not in the countryside, then the disease will continue to spread. Because TB is contagious and airborne, no half measures can be effective in ending the disease. That is one of the reasons that the funding gaps we are exploring in this project are so worrying. TB is a powerful disease that is present across the globe. If you don’t fully fund the fight against TB, then every dollar you spend will only make a small difference and then be washed away.

Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee David Rochkind’s project: The Price of Health: TB Budget Gaps in Vietnam

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This was my first time witnessing India’s mid-day meal program in action. I was touched by the sight. There’s something about the sight of emaciated children eating hot, freshly cooked food that they wouldn’t otherwise get that doesn’t allow you to be the detached, distant observer that we journalists often are.

But it wasn’t until I ventured deeper into the state of Haryana, into one of its hunger-stricken areas, that I really understood the program’s impact on children. As I describe in this story, in a village in the district of Bhiwani, most children go to school having eaten just a left-over piece of bread and tea, or baasi roti aur chai, as mothers in the village would put it. Most families can’t afford vegetables or lentils or eggs.

As a journalist writing about health and development, I knew how widespread hunger and malnutrition still are in my country. But I’d never witnessed what that looks like for real people until I started reporting this series. And it was this project that helped me understand how a relatively simple idea of one freshly cooked meal a day benefits India’s millions of poor children.

Read more from Rhitu Chatterjee’s project, A Free Meal: India’s School Lunch Program.

Jul 27

Violet Clarke’s home sits virtually in the center of the vast Athabasca tar sands, a colossal deposit of extremely heavy crude oil in the western Canadian province of Alberta.

She vaguely recalls seeing the gooey black stuff, which seeped naturally from the banks of the Athabasca River, during her childhood. Her father, a Cree Indian, slathered handfuls of the foul-smelling heavy oil, known as bitumen, over his birch canoe to seal it. He hunted bear, moose and elk, butchered them and smoked their flesh. In the summer Clarke picked and dried berries.

“We lived clean, healthy lives,” says Clarke, 86, sitting by a window in her battered mobile home. But over the past four decades, bitumen and the economy it has birthed have dramatically changed her life. A snarling complex of mines, pipelines, waste ponds and processing plants now lives atop the tar sands, one of the largest concentrated industrial activities on earth. The world’s largest earth movers claw into black seams of the bitumen around the clock. Forests of factory stacks reach to the sky, lighting the land with smoky flares at night.

Read more from Dan Grossman’s project, The Big Picture: Alberta’s Oil Sands

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One of the greatest inventions for public health? Sprinkles.. but not the kind showed here. “Sprinkles” refers to micronutrient powders, which are cheap and easy to use, and help fight malnutrition. Of the 300 million kids with anemia worldwide, only a few have gotten the micronutrient powders. Pulitzer Center grantee Samuel Loewenberg investigates why.

Visit our project page: From the Ground Up: Fixing Foreign Aid In an Age of Scarcity

Jul 26

The scale of this ecological disaster is daunting, and the potential scale and cost of any remediation or cleanup effort is mind-boggling. According to a geochemical survey conducted by the Ministry of Land and Resources between 2002 and 2008, 794 square miles in the area are polluted by heavy metals, an area that stretches from Zhuzhou, on the Xiang River, to Chengjingji. The report revealed that the area’s rice and vegetables—as well as reeds and mussels in its waterways—all contained elevated levels, mostly of cadmium.

Liu Shu—who is chair of the Shuguang Environmental Protection Organization, an NGO founded in 2013 in Changsha that works on soil pollution—has investigated soil pollution in Zhuzhou, Changsha, and Xiangtan. Her group found cadmium levels 49.5 times the limit in soil samples taken from the vicinity of a smelting plant in the municipality of Changning. At another site, an industrial park by the Xiang River in Henghan County, the group found levels 331 times the limit.

Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee He Guangwei’s project: Soil Pollution in China.

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For refugees, lack of funding means delayed processing and insufficient aid. For Iraqis, it often means extended periods without any aid at all.

Nada Qasim fled from Baghdad in November with her seven children and husband, targeted by extremists for having worked with American soldiers.

Paint flakes off the walls of the bare apartment that they pay $225 per month to rent. Nada’s sister, married to a Kurd in northern Iraq, sends them rent money each month. The family depends on charities for everything else.

Syrians entering are given prima facie refugee recognition. That is, UNHCR registers Syrians immediately so they can access food, healthcare and education services.

Iraqis, along with minority refugee populations—Sudanese, Somalis and others, receive aid on a case-by-case basis, determined through vulnerability assessments that take an indeterminate amount of time.

"Ninety percent of Iraqis I deal with don’t receive any money anymore," said Haifa Hourani, an employee at an organization that works with Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement.

"If you’re not a widow or divorced woman alone with children, they probably won’t give you anything."

Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Alice Su’s project: Interim Lives: Refugee Survival in Jordan and Lebanon

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Violet Clarke’s home sits virtually in the center of the vast Athabasca tar sands, a colossal deposit of extremely heavy crude oil in the western Canadian province of Alberta.

She vaguely recalls seeing the gooey black stuff, which seeped naturally from the banks of the Athabasca River, during her childhood. Her father, a Cree Indian, slathered handfuls of the foul-smelling heavy oil, known as bitumen, over his birch canoe to seal it. He hunted bear, moose and elk, butchered them and smoked their flesh. In the summer Clarke picked and dried berries.

“We lived clean, healthy lives,” says Clarke, 86, sitting by a window in her battered mobile home. But over the past four decades, bitumen and the economy it has birthed have dramatically changed her life. A snarling complex of mines, pipelines, waste ponds and processing plants now lives atop the tar sands, one of the largest concentrated industrial activities on earth. The world’s largest earth movers claw into black seams of the bitumen around the clock. Forests of factory stacks reach to the sky, lighting the land with smoky flares at night.

Read more from Dan Grossman’s project, The Big Picture: Alberta’s Oil Sands