Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Sep 19

image

“In areas where rebels are more trusted than doctors, [convincing] reluctant citizens that the vaccine is safe” is no easy task, reports Tik Root in The Washington Post. While the vaccination campaign has been made more difficult by the conflict, most of the obstacles facing the volunteers are not unique: fear, misinformation, social stigma, religious backlash, and lack of trained volunteers.

Pulitzer Center grantee Esha Chhabra found that the slow, but ultimately highly effective, polio campaign in India faced many of the same stumbling blocks. For her project, India: Polio-Free and Looking Ahead at mHealth, Chhabra traveled to Aligarh to report on the successes and failures of the campaign.

In 2014, almost a third of Syrian refugee brides in Jordan have been under the age of 18, as reported in New York Times on September 13, 2014. Early marriage often keeps girls from finishing their education, but it’s a price that refugee families are willing to pay to decrease their daughters’ risk of sexual harassment or rape in a region with unenforced law.
Syrian refugees are just one of several groups facing high rates of child marriage. Pulitzer Center grantee Stephanie Sinclair has spent almost a decade investigating the phenomenon, reporting from India, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia.
“In almost every situation, I wanted to take the girl, throw her over my shoulder and get her out of there,” Stephanie wrote. “But I learned it is much more complicated than that.”

In 2014, almost a third of Syrian refugee brides in Jordan have been under the age of 18, as reported in New York Times on September 13, 2014. Early marriage often keeps girls from finishing their education, but it’s a price that refugee families are willing to pay to decrease their daughters’ risk of sexual harassment or rape in a region with unenforced law.

Syrian refugees are just one of several groups facing high rates of child marriage. Pulitzer Center grantee Stephanie Sinclair has spent almost a decade investigating the phenomenon, reporting from India, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia.

“In almost every situation, I wanted to take the girl, throw her over my shoulder and get her out of there,” Stephanie wrote. “But I learned it is much more complicated than that.”

image

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

Sep 18

[video]

image

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.

image

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.

Sep 17

pulitzerfieldnotes:

A Christian woman washes clothes in the half-finished Erbil shopping mall that’s been transformed into a camp for Iraq’s IDPs.

Image by Sebastian Meyer and text by Jenna Krajeski, via Instagram. Iraq, 2014.
Pulitzer Center grantees Meyer and Krajeski are reporting on Iraq’s internally displaced persons.

pulitzerfieldnotes:

A Christian woman washes clothes in the half-finished Erbil shopping mall that’s been transformed into a camp for Iraq’s IDPs.

Image by Sebastian Meyer and text by Jenna Krajeski, via Instagram. Iraq, 2014.

Pulitzer Center grantees Meyer and Krajeski are reporting on Iraq’s internally displaced persons.

image

After a couple of years of relative quiet, Thailand’s political turmoil resumed again a few months ago when the Red Shirts’ mortal foes, the Yellow Shirts, mounted protests that effectively prevented the government from functioning, and this time the army took over in a coup d’état. The resilience of groups like the motorcycle taxi drivers, however, is likely to make it difficult, and perhaps impossible, for the new junta to maintain undisputed control—or to turn the government over to any civilian party that the drivers and others like them view as deadly rivals.

Motorcycle taxis are a large and, more important, representative constituency. If you want to get someplace quickly in traffic-choked Bangkok, your best bet is to take a two-wheeled motorcycle taxi, even if it doesn’t feel entirely safe to weave through traffic the way they do, squeezing in the tight spaces between slowly moving cars. There are some 200,000 motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok, most of them licensed, some of them not, recognizable by the orange vests they wear as they infiltrate the traffic, or wait for customers under corrugated metal awnings. They make 4 to 6 million trips a day, which means that the motorcycle taxis carry ten times as many passengers as Bangkok’s smooth-as-silk rapid transit system.

These drivers are, in other words, indispensable for local transportation.

Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Richard Bernstein’s project, Thailand: Is Democracy Doomed? http://bit.ly/thailandmotorcycle

image

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

Sep 16

image

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