Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Sep 01

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

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.

Aug 31

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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

A worldwide vigil for the Nigerian students abducted by Boko Haram draws attention to a major global issue: the education of girls.

Pulitzer Center grantee Jennifer Koons recently published an article discussing media coverage of the Nigerian schoolgirls. She stressed the importance of making women’s rights part of standard news coverage, rather than relegating features to “‘Special Topics’ or the Sunday Outlook and Style sections.” As Koons reports in her project on young women in Niger, challenges of population growth, food security, and violence, “can be traced back to issues with girl’s health, education, and human rights.”

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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

On July 16, 2013, the death by pesticide of 23 Indian schoolchildren exposed the tragic shortcomings of India’s program of free school lunches. No one disputes that the program itself is essential.

The food was contaminated by pesticides, a case of negligence on the part of the school principal, who was tasked with overseeing the lunch program. The principal and her husband were later charged with murder.

The case horrified the country. And it put a spotlight on India’s mid-day meal program, perhaps the largest free lunch program in the world. First launched in 1995, it now feeds 120 million school children across India. But it’s been criticized for corruption, inefficiency and a lack of monitoring and enforcement of standards.

The program came with lofty goals: feed hungry children and boost school enrollment. So I set off to find out if it has been successful.

Read Rhitu Chatterjee’s articles about India’s school lunch program and its impact, especially on women and children here

At 13, Balkissa Chaibou walked to the center and asked to hide out until her father and uncle agreed not to marry her to a middle aged man in Nigeria. Balkissa, studious, poised and driven beyond her years, had little understanding of what marriage entailed beyond an end to her schooling and a new life far away from her mother.

As one of 18 siblings, her French-speaking classroom was the place where she stood out, felt seen and understood. When—at 12—her uncle first announced he’d found a husband for her, she reasoned that the only solution to the “problem” was to become the top student in her class—male or female. Then, she believed, the principal would tell her parents she had to finish.

Her mother Hausa, the third and youngest of three wives who had come from Mali illiterate and unable to speak the tribal language, was the first to be swayed by her daughter’s tireless campaign. She counseled Balkissa to be patient and said it was her mantra—having spent the past 16 years verbally and physically taunted for being light-skinned and “a witch.”

Balkissa, the spitting image of her mother, adhered to her wishes until her patience ran out. When her uncle and father persisted, she ran away to the SOS shelter where one of the counselors reached out to the principal of her school and together and the three drew up a document for her father and uncle to sign stating that they would not marry her.

Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Jennifer Koons’s project: Less Is More in Niger. http://bit.ly/girlsinniger

Aug 30

Pulitzer Center grantee Fiona Lloyd-Davies has been documenting sexual violence in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo for over a decade. “Seeds of Hope” takes the reporting even deeper, telling the story of a community of women subjected to rape but refusing to let those assaults define their lives. The film, told entirely in the voices of the women themselves, is by turns disturbing and heart-breaking but inspiring throughout.

Coverage of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, a conference organized by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and actress Angelina Jolie was dominated by “Seeds of Hope.”

“Unforgettable … extraordinary” and at times “almost unbearable,” the London Evening Standard wrote. The Daily Mail Online called it “chilling” and “unprecedented.”

Aug 29

UNICEF and World Food Program officials warn that famine in South Sudan is now a real threat and that as many as 50,000 children face death by acute malnutrition by the end of the year.
Pulitzer Center grantee Ty McCormick, writing for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post, reports on the deadly consequences of continued civil war in South Sudan. Factional infighting among top government leaders has made a mockery of hopes that greeted the creation of the world’s newest nation.

UNICEF and World Food Program officials warn that famine in South Sudan is now a real threat and that as many as 50,000 children face death by acute malnutrition by the end of the year.

Pulitzer Center grantee Ty McCormick, writing for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post, reports on the deadly consequences of continued civil war in South Sudan. Factional infighting among top government leaders has made a mockery of hopes that greeted the creation of the world’s newest nation.

Jenna Krajeski continues her authoritative work on the roiling complexities of multiple conflicts in the Middle East with a dispatch for Harper’s Magazine on the challenges faced by a small mental health clinic in Iraq’s Kurdistan.

Jenna Krajeski continues her authoritative work on the roiling complexities of multiple conflicts in the Middle East with a dispatch for Harper’s Magazine on the challenges faced by a small mental health clinic in Iraq’s Kurdistan.