Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Apr 23

Pulitzer Hangout Explores India’s Healthcare Crisis on Thursday, April 24

The event will be live-streamed with Google Hangout on Air. Come here on April 24 at 4pm India time to watch the event. You may have to refresh your page to see the video.

RSVP to receive an email 15 minutes before the start time.

India’s hospitals are decaying. In impoverished regions of the country, the population outnumbers what the medical staffs can safely handle, and the equipment is either dated or broken.

Our discussion will focus on Gujarat, where a large government insurance plan for the poor has recently been implemented. The state is also home to the leading prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. India’s elections wrap up on May 12.

The insurance plan was initiated in 2012, and has become a popular answer for the question of how best to treat India’s large population of sick residents living below the poverty line. But critics say the plan is more political posture than practical solution and that much remains to be done to provide universal access to care.

The discussion will be between a Pulitzer Center grantee, Michael Hayden, and a doctor working in Gujarat, Dr. Hanif Lakdawala.

Hayden recently wrote a four-part series on India’s healthcare crisis for The New York Times IndiaInk blog. Dr. Lakdawala is the director and managing trustee of Sanchetana, a nongovernmental organization devoted to providing health care to slum dwellers in urban areas of Gujarat. The discussion will be moderated by Peter Sawyer, health projects director at the Pulitzer Center.

This Pulitzer Hangout will be live-streamed on this page on April 24. Below are the details for a few time zones:

6:30am: New York
11:30am: London
12:30am: Geneva
4:00pm: India

We hope you will participate in the discussion by posting your thoughts and questions to Twitter, using the #indiahealth hashtag.

Apr 22

This Week: The Ghosts of Rana Plaza

RELIVING RANA PLAZA

We are proud of Pulitzer Center grantee Jason Motlagh’s meticulously reported and profoundly moving reconstruction of the Rana Plaza disaster that appears in the spring issue of theVirginia Quarterly Review.

More than 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers, most of them women, lost their lives when the eight-story Rana Plaza factory collapsed April 24th last year. Jason was at the scene soon after the disaster and we sent him back a few months later to construct detailed narratives of the people most affected by the disaster.

The result is journalism of the highest order. We agree with VQRpublisher W. Ralph Eubanks who says that “while the main strength of the article resides in the scenes Motlagh renders in painstaking detail, when his writing is paired with photographs—his own as well as those of Atish Saha—the words become even more powerful.”

In a separate piece this week for The Washington Post’s“Outlook” section, Jason notes that in the year since the Rana Plaza disaster, significant reforms in the Bangladesh garment industry have been put in place. “But we’d be foolish to believe that the industry has thoroughly cleaned up its act or that it will continue to try to as Western concern flags,” he says.
 
HI-TECH POLLUTERS

In terms of industrial pollution, we usually don’t associate Silicon Valley with western Pennsylvania’s Mon Valley or West Virginia’s Chemical Valley. But iPhones and laptops are eventually discarded and often end up as a new kind of industrial waste in places like India.

In a photo essay for Bloomberg, Pulitzer Center grantee Sean Gallagher documents the recent emergence of an informal industry of e–waste recyclers on the outskirts of Kolkata. “[I]t’s common to find women, young men and children picking away at piles of electronics, breaking them down into increasingly smaller pieces that are then separated and collected,” writes Sean. “But as the villagers spend their days dismantling by hand devices that contain toxic materials, there’s a growing concern about the long-term health effects on the workers.”     

VLADIMIR PUTIN’S MAP OF THE WORLD

Maps are redrawn to reflect the waxing and waning ambitions of nations and politicians. Ordinary people generally try to just stay put in the place they know.    

As Pulitzer Center grantee Dimiter Kenarov writes in this dispatch for The Atlantic, “Few places in the world have had more colorful and mutable maps than the Crimean peninsula, where borders have shifted yet again after Russia annexed the region from Ukraine in mid-March, following a referendum. As if living in a world of Zeno’s paradoxes, Crimeans have suddenly found themselves in a new country and even a new time zone. But this is nothing new.”

Vladimir Putin is now eyeing the eastern half of Ukraine, where large numbers of Russians live. He has massed 40,000 troops on the border and it now seems only a matter of time before the maps will be redrawn again.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor

LUSAKA, Zambia — In his spare bungalow in central Lusaka, Fisho Mwale wears a pastel, plaid button-down and sleek, rectangular glasses. He is warm and soft-spoken. But his easy manner is camouflage; Mwale is calculating, as any man who has been both distinguished and underestimated might be.
The son of a soccer star who became foreign minister, Mwale was, for a few years, mayor of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. One of his early business ventures was buying a London-based trade-financing company. “It was an Anglo-American corporation,” he says. “And here were these small, cheeky Africans.” The acquisition reversed the usual flow of purchasing power, from global north to south. Which is to say, Mwale is proud.
Mwale keeps his facial hair narrow and closely cropped. He wears the same goatee in a favorite old photograph, in which he and several associates revel in the high-rolling lifestyle of the early debt-swapping business, a small slice of global financing that would bring Mwale fortune and frustration.
Twenty years after the photo was taken, outrage over a deal Mwale executed for (or with, depending on whom you ask) American financier Michael Sheehan drove Mwale out of Zambia. Allegations swirled that Mwale had bribed officials to push the deal through.
The deal that Mwale helped execute made Sheehan the best-known of a small group of men who head “vulture funds” — or, as the industry prefers to call them, distressed-debt investments. These are purchases, by private investors, of sovereign debt that’s gone long unpaid. Investors say they want to “swap” that debt for local investment; critics say vultures buy debt cheaply only to sue later for much more money.
Activists and human-rights crusaders see this, essentially, as stealing from the poor to get rich, and using courts to do it. But financiers who deal in vulture funds argue that their lawsuits force accountability for national borrowing, without which credit markets would shrivel, and that their pursuit of unpaid commercial debt uncovers public corruption.

Read the rest of Jina Moore’s article, her first in her project: Zambia: Twilight of the Vulture Funds?

LUSAKA, Zambia — In his spare bungalow in central Lusaka, Fisho Mwale wears a pastel, plaid button-down and sleek, rectangular glasses. He is warm and soft-spoken. But his easy manner is camouflage; Mwale is calculating, as any man who has been both distinguished and underestimated might be.

The son of a soccer star who became foreign minister, Mwale was, for a few years, mayor of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. One of his early business ventures was buying a London-based trade-financing company. “It was an Anglo-American corporation,” he says. “And here were these small, cheeky Africans.” The acquisition reversed the usual flow of purchasing power, from global north to south. Which is to say, Mwale is proud.

Mwale keeps his facial hair narrow and closely cropped. He wears the same goatee in a favorite old photograph, in which he and several associates revel in the high-rolling lifestyle of the early debt-swapping business, a small slice of global financing that would bring Mwale fortune and frustration.

Twenty years after the photo was taken, outrage over a deal Mwale executed for (or with, depending on whom you ask) American financier Michael Sheehan drove Mwale out of Zambia. Allegations swirled that Mwale had bribed officials to push the deal through.

The deal that Mwale helped execute made Sheehan the best-known of a small group of men who head “vulture funds” — or, as the industry prefers to call them, distressed-debt investments. These are purchases, by private investors, of sovereign debt that’s gone long unpaid. Investors say they want to “swap” that debt for local investment; critics say vultures buy debt cheaply only to sue later for much more money.

Activists and human-rights crusaders see this, essentially, as stealing from the poor to get rich, and using courts to do it. But financiers who deal in vulture funds argue that their lawsuits force accountability for national borrowing, without which credit markets would shrivel, and that their pursuit of unpaid commercial debt uncovers public corruption.

Read the rest of Jina Moore’s article, her first in her project: Zambia: Twilight of the Vulture Funds?

Apr 19

[video]

[video]

Apr 18

Twenty years ago, 179 countries signed onto a landmark United Nations program to slow global population growth by pledging to give women around the world greater control over their bodies, their fertility and their destinies.
So how did they do?
Globally, some signs are promising. Women are having fewer children, on average. Fewer women are dying during pregnancy or childbirth. Literacy rates are climbing, as most girls now enroll in primary school. More women than ever have entered the workforce and have a chance to vote.
Yet the discrepancies between the rich and the poor remains stark, according to a recently released 20-year report card on progress made since the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.
About 1 billion people in more than 50 countries “have seen only limited gains in health and well-being since 1994, and some are poised to become poorer as the rest of the global population anticipates better livelihoods,” says the new report by the United Nations Population Fund.
“It is in these countries, and among poorer populations within wealthier countries, that women’s status, maternal death, child marriage and many other concerns of the [1994 Cairo conference] have seen minimal progress,” the 235-page report card concludes.
Despite common pledges two decades ago, the nations of the world have split into two paths. The wealthier ones, particularly European countries, and Far Eastern nations such as Japan and Korea see little or no population growth, resulting in an aging population. The poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia and a few places in Latin America continue to have rapid population growth and a young age structure. It is these countries that will bring 97 percent of the growth between now and 2050.
These growth patterns closely track how women and girls are treated in these countries.
The vast majority of underage and forced marriages occur in the poorest, most traditional societies, according to the report’s survey of 156 nations. Such early marriage results in more teenage pregnancies, especially among the poor and rural populations. Beginning motherhood so early, these adolescents are likely to bear more children during their lifetimes and their large families are less likely to climb out of poverty.
The report’s authors noted that the rate of global population growth is slowing, even if the number of people added to the planet every year is close to the all time high of 84 million a year.
“There were an estimated 5.7 billion people in the world at the time of the ICPD in 1994,” the authors write. “Global population has now reached 7.1 billion, and continues to grow by some 82 million people per year.”

Read the rest of Pulitzer Center grantee Ken Weiss’s article and view his project: “Beyond 7 Billion.”

Twenty years ago, 179 countries signed onto a landmark United Nations program to slow global population growth by pledging to give women around the world greater control over their bodies, their fertility and their destinies.

So how did they do?

Globally, some signs are promising. Women are having fewer children, on average. Fewer women are dying during pregnancy or childbirth. Literacy rates are climbing, as most girls now enroll in primary school. More women than ever have entered the workforce and have a chance to vote.

Yet the discrepancies between the rich and the poor remains stark, according to a recently released 20-year report card on progress made since the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.

About 1 billion people in more than 50 countries “have seen only limited gains in health and well-being since 1994, and some are poised to become poorer as the rest of the global population anticipates better livelihoods,” says the new report by the United Nations Population Fund.

“It is in these countries, and among poorer populations within wealthier countries, that women’s status, maternal death, child marriage and many other concerns of the [1994 Cairo conference] have seen minimal progress,” the 235-page report card concludes.

Despite common pledges two decades ago, the nations of the world have split into two paths. The wealthier ones, particularly European countries, and Far Eastern nations such as Japan and Korea see little or no population growth, resulting in an aging population. The poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia and a few places in Latin America continue to have rapid population growth and a young age structure. It is these countries that will bring 97 percent of the growth between now and 2050.

These growth patterns closely track how women and girls are treated in these countries.

The vast majority of underage and forced marriages occur in the poorest, most traditional societies, according to the report’s survey of 156 nations. Such early marriage results in more teenage pregnancies, especially among the poor and rural populations. Beginning motherhood so early, these adolescents are likely to bear more children during their lifetimes and their large families are less likely to climb out of poverty.

The report’s authors noted that the rate of global population growth is slowing, even if the number of people added to the planet every year is close to the all time high of 84 million a year.

“There were an estimated 5.7 billion people in the world at the time of the ICPD in 1994,” the authors write. “Global population has now reached 7.1 billion, and continues to grow by some 82 million people per year.”

Read the rest of Pulitzer Center grantee Ken Weiss’s article and view his project: “Beyond 7 Billion.”

[video]

Dolphin Slaughter

In a cruel and brutally destructive practice, fishermen in Peru are killing dolphins to use as shark bait. “The shark meat is predominantly consumed within Peru, but the fins we’re told are being exported to the Far East for use as shark fin soup,” explains Pulitzer Center grantee Jim Wickens, who documents the slaughter in a documentary for Link TV.

The practice is illegal, but Jim estimates that some 10,000 dolphins are killed each year.

Apr 17

On the afternoon of April 23, 2013, workers at the Rana Plaza offices of BRAC Bank were concerned about recent cracks that had appeared in the walls of the building. Their manager ordered tellers to complete transactions they were working on and promptly evacuate. Hours later, the building would lie under an eight-story heap of rubble, taking 1,100 lives in perhaps the deadliest industrial disasters in history.

Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Fred de Sam Lazaro about Bangladesh’s new garment factory laws, one year after the Rana Plaza collapse.

[video]