Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Jul 23

Democracy and equal rights form a natural pair. And yet India, the world’s greatest stable democracy, measured by a population over 1.2 billion, is sorely lagging in one key aspect: gender equality.

That could start to change in the months and years ahead.

On April 15 this year the Supreme Court finally acknowledged India’s large male-to-female transgender minority by announcing the existence of a “third gender” and enabling them to register as such on government documents like voter ID cards.

And last month, newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated moves to bring more women into politics.

These two separate developments could be the start of something big: addressing India’s gaping gender inequality by means of quotas.

Read more from Michael Edison Hayden’s project: India’s Third Gender: http://bit.ly/Indiastransgender

Jul 22

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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

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

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INDIA: A FREE LUNCH AND MORE

A year ago this month 23 schoolchildren in India died because the food they had eaten as part of a free lunch program was laced with pesticide. The tragedy evoked the awful consequences of corruption, government mismanagement, and public indifference to the well-being of disadvantaged Indian children. But as Pulitzer Center grantee Rhitu Chatterjee reports in a fascinating three-part series for PRI’s The Worldthe free lunch program itself is essential and generally a success.

The program benefits 120 million children a day, Rhitu says, making it one of the world’s largest anti-poverty programs—and for many of those children it is the source of the day’s only real meal. The program, instituted in 1995, has contributed to increased school enrollment and attendance as well as improved health. Among other, unanticipated benefits are jobs for the low-income women who work as school cooks and the breaking down of caste barriers in many regions as children from different backgrounds grow accustomed to eating together.

“As I wrap up my work on this series, I am left feeling an immense sense of awe,” Rhitu says in the last of her reports for The World. “I’m in awe that in a country as vast and diverse as India, where everything is slowed down by red tape and corruption, the mid-day meal program has more or less succeeded in what it set out to do: improve child nutrition and increase school enrollment and attendance.”

BRAZIL: THE WORLD CUP, FROM THE STREETS AND THE BEACH

Pulitzer Center grantee Matthew Niederhauser concluded his series of photo essays for The New Republic with another memorable behind-the-scenes look at the world’s biggest sports event. Matthew watched Brazil lose the consolation game on television, from the Mangueira favela that overlooks—across an unbridgeable divide—the Maracanã stadium that is Brazil’s top soccer shrine. On the day of the finals hecaptured the tournament’s biggest street protest and then took the metro to Copacabana beach, “the epicenter of World Cup revelry. I felt like I was entering a different world only minutes after being chased by riot police and pepper sprayed. All of sudden it was sand, surf, and caipirinhas.”

TURKEY: WHAT THE CAMERA SAW

Pulitzer Center grantee Jenna Krajeski, in the latest from her continuing project on protest in Turkey, reports for Harper’s in forensic detail on efforts to establish whether police were responsible for the death of 22-year-old Ahmet Atakan, who was killed on September 10, 2013, in the city of Antakya during a wave of anti-government protests across the country.

Jenna concludes that the evidence is ambiguous: Some camera footage and eyewitness reports suggest that Atakan died from injuries sustained when he fell from the roof of a building; others, that he wasstruck in the neck by a tear-gas canister. What was clear, she reports, was general police excess: Some 130,000 canisters of tear gas were fired during the first 20 days of protests, according to Amnesty International, many of them shot horizontally in a way that renders them far more dangerous.

“Atakan’s family, for their part, could barely watch the videos,” Jenna writes. “What they showed, the family already knew. ‘There could be many things that caused his death,’ Atakan’s uncle said. ‘But the reality is, if the police hadn’t been there, Ahmet wouldn’t have died.’”

Until next week,

Jon Sawyer
Executive Director

Jul 21

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It’s 8 o’clock on a crisp Greenland evening. The air tastes like a fresh bubbling spring, the result of the steady gusts of wind blowing over the nearby glacier, my guide explains. A puff of diesel pollutes my senses as we bounce our way over this jagged landscape of rock and ice on an ATV. The small hunting village of Ittoqqortoormiit is on Greenland’s northeast coast. The 477 Inuits who call this territory home live in isolation and relative peace. But today we’re on the look-out for an unlikely predator.

"They come very early in the morning and very late at night," my guide Erling Madsen shouts over the engine and the waves of Walrus Bay crashing against a 50-foot cliff two feet from where our wheels grind earth. We’re heading to where that predator was first spotted. "A hunter called me. He saw it heading into town," Madsen said, his rifle strapped to my back as I hold on tightly to his shoulders.

Ittoqqortoormiit is one of the most remote villages in the Western Hemisphere. Not a single road connects the community to the rest of the world. Only a bumpy helicopter ride in and out once a week takes visitors to a world where seal fur and musk ox meat are popular forms of currency. Global trends have filtered through over the years, but usually after the rest of the world has moved on. Justin Bieber’s “Baby” is a current favorite among the village’s small teen population.

When it comes to climate change, however, there is a new world order and Ittoqqortoormiit is on the frontlines. Earlier this year scientists reported that the U.S. climate has changed as a result of global warming. “Summers are longer and hotter… Winters are generally shorter and warmer,” the report explained. This is old news to a town that straddles Greenland’s ice sheet—or what scientists call ground zero for climate change.

"We have a front row seat," said Madsen as we disembarked from our ATV. Madsen used to be the mayor of this northeastern territory, but today he acts like a sheriff. "Those are his tracks," he says pointing to depressions in the ground. The threat? Polar bears.

Read the rest of the story and view Pulitzer Center grantee Jonathan Vigliotti’s project: As Greenland’s Ice Melts, Polar Bears Turn on Humans

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In the rural Indian village of Barjor Khera, Seema Kumar cradled her two month old daughter, Deepansi, in her arms. It was time to dream of the future.

“I wish for her a good education and a good job,” Seema said. “And a good marriage.”

Seema’s sister-in-law and neighbor, Sanju Kumar, sat beside her on the crude stoop between their humble houses. Her son, Adarsh, was born 13 days after Deepansi. “I want him to be a wise person,” she said. “He will need a good education.”

Neither of the mothers had ever gone to school. Both illiterate, they treasure education for their children.

In another rural village, in northern Uganda, another mom dreams big. “I want him to be a businessman,” Esther Okwir said about her 10-week old son Rodgers. They were sitting on a thatched mat under a shade tree behind their house in the village of Barjwinya. It was a cool, quiet place for breastfeeding and mother-child bonding. “If he gets the education, he can be a manager, an accountant,” Esther continued.

A hemisphere away, in Guatemala’s Palajunoj Valley, Maria Delfina Camacho envisioned her one month old son Jose getting the education she never did; she only made it to sixth grade. “I wanted to go further,” she said. “But I couldn’t.” Jose will, she hopes; it will be his way out of the valley.

On Chicago’s south side, Jessica Saldana admired her six-day-old daughter, Alitzel, who was sleeping in her arms. “I see her being an honor student. I see her playing sports like me,” Jessica said. “And there will be music in her life, maybe playing the violin.”

The dreams of new mothers are similar all around the world. Some of the details may vary at the edges, but at the center is a good education.

Read the rest of the article, written by Pulitzer Center grantee Roger Thurow and be sure to check out his project here: 1,000 Days: To Save Women, Children and the World

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Jul 20

When Nguyen Thi Hong Hanh first noticed she was running a fever, she didn’t think much of it. The 26-year-old Vietnamese factory worker bought some over-the-counter drugs at a local pharmacy and went about her life. She endured a month of persistent symptoms before finally visiting a hospital, where she was diagnosed with lymph node tuberculosis. The news came as a surprise to Hanh, who knew little about the disease and had no idea a non-pulmonary form existed.

Do Kim Lang, a local health volunteer, is trying to prevent more cases like this. Several times a week, the 65-year-old straps on her helmet and rides her moped around Hanh’s Ho Chi Minh City neighborhood, a low-income area known as District 8. She visits people’s homes, educating them about tuberculosis and encouraging those with symptoms to get tested. She sees Hanh at her tiny one-bedroom house as well as others already undergoing treatment to make sure they’re taking medication correctly. “People’s knowledge is very limited,” Lang tells me. “They don’t know how to maintain their health or prevent their family members from getting TB.”

Volunteers like Lang play a crucial role in Vietnam’s ability to fight tuberculosis. Here, treating disease isn’t as straightforward as it is in developed countries, where people are more educated about health risks, commonly seek professional care, and generally understand how to follow treatment regimens. In the developing world, the greatest challenge often occurs before treatment: it’s seeking out and educating people in need of diagnosis before they spread the disease to others.

Because many low-income Vietnamese aren’t educated about tuberculosis, they don’t know how to protect themselves and others. Lang says some people in her community don’t know the disease exists, while others believe it’s genetic and many are afraid to visit clinics. According to a 2013 study by PSI, a global health organization, 31 percent of Vietnamese who had TB symptoms weren’t able to correctly identify any symptoms of the disease. Only 56 percent of respondents were able to identify the more common symptom: a cough lasting longer than two weeks.

As a result, many people ignore symptoms or, like Hanh, buy over-the-counter drugs rather than seeking a TB test from a local health clinic. Some who are aware of the disease still skirt diagnosis because of stigma, while rural patients often stay away because they can’t afford to travel to TB clinics in larger cities. These tendencies can make the disease more difficult to treat and give it more time to spread. That’s a problem because people with pulmonary TB can infect between 10 and 15 people during the course of their disease, according to Laurel Fain, director of the USAID Health Office in Vietnam. “The earlier they can get on treatment, the lower the chance their disease will spread,” Fain says.

Read more about the spread of TB in Vietnam, reported on by Pulitzer Center grantees Jens Erik Gould and David Rochkind for their project: The Price of Health: TB Budget Gaps in Vietnam