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Nurith Aizenman

Eleven days ago, Dr. Akbari was at her clinic in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif when she got a call that made her drop everything. It was a member of the Taliban who had been threatening her from afar for months because she had given a birth control shot to his 13-year-old bride.

"This time, his voice was actually really soft," recalls Akbari. "He said, 'We're entering the city. Soon we'll come and get you.' "

When it comes to COVID-19 in Africa, there were mixed signals from Africa on Thursday.

The World Health Organization reports that after eight consecutive weeks of surging cases across the continent, there's finally been a reversal. The total number of confirmed new cases in Africa fell by 1.7% to nearly 282,000 in the past week. And it's worth noting that this represents only 8% of new cases worldwide.

There's mounting research to suggest that protecting people who are immuno-compromised from getting COVID is important not just for their sake – it could be critical in the effort to end the pandemic for everyone.

The evidence comes from two separate strands of studies.

Dr. Laura McCoy has been doing the first type. She's an infectious disease researcher at University College London.

"The group of people that I'm particularly interested in are those living with HIV," she says.

When COVID-19 cases surged in Malawi in January, Alinafe Kasiya's family was hit hard. The disease killed his sister — a healthy, gregarious woman who was the heart and soul of their clan — just before her 44th birthday. Then another sister who had cared for the first came down with symptoms. Then Kasiya's 13-year-son got sick while at boarding school. Kasiya wasn't even allowed to visit the boy while he recovered.

"It was a nightmare. The whole situation was a nightmare," he says.

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It seems incredible: At a time when low-income nations are clamoring for vaccines against COVID-19, at least three countries — Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and South Sudan — are either discarding doses or giving them to other countries. What's going on?

Editor's note: As noted in this article, research is ongoing into the efficacy of various vaccines against the different variants. This piece reflects the state of knowledge as of its publication date, Friday, April 9.

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When the pandemic first hit, Hitesh Hurkchand had one overriding concern: How do I protect my mother?

Hurkchand lives in Boston. His mother, Thulja, was in South Africa. She was a widow, living at an assisted living facility. And she had diabetes, hypertension, and heart issues.

Thinking about how hard it was going to be to keep Thulja safe, Hurkchand would fall into bouts of despair. "Oh my god, I mean it was like every other day," he recalls.

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The open market of the coronavirus vaccines has left countries like South Africa in a bind as they try to figure out a way to protect their citizens. NPR's Nurith Aizenman explains.

How to make sure the world is never so devastated by another pandemic?

Health officials from around the globe have been vigorously discussing that question over the past week at the annual meeting of the World Health Organization's Executive Board. The members, whose nine-day-long, mostly virtual gathering concludes on Tuesday, have heard recommendations from four separate panels.

Exactly one year ago today, the World Health Organization first learned of a cluster of a few dozen pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China of "unknown" origin. The cause, of course, would turn out to be the coronavirus behind the current pandemic. Here's a by-the-numbers summary of the toll the virus has taken on countries across the globe since that fateful day.

When Steve Davis considers the prospects of the world's poorest citizens he is filled with .... hope. The reason: Five promising trends that, he says, are gaining steam even amid deeply worrisome developments that get much more attention.

What are the biggest drivers of human suffering?

Every year an international team of researchers aims to answer that question by assembling a mammoth data set called the "Global Burden of Disease." It has become the go-to source for tracking and ranking the impact of virtually every disease or condition that is killing, sickening or otherwise disabling people in virtually every country on the planet.

President Trump has credited the apparent improvement of his coronavirus infection to, as he put it in one tweet, "some really great drugs" that were "developed, under the Trump Administration."

The assertion carries special irony for researcher Peter Daszak.

The coronavirus pandemic has now killed at least 1 million people worldwide. That's according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. This sobering milestone was reached just nine months after the first reported fatality in China last January. And public health experts believe the actual toll – the recorded deaths plus the unrecorded deaths – is much higher.

Every year, Stephen Lim and his colleagues at the University of Washington compile and analyze health data from every country on the planet to come up with a sort of global report card.

Year after year, one of the biggest success stories has been the vaccination of children.

"We've really seen this steady progress in increasing the fraction of children who are receiving ... in particular, the basic vaccines — diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis," Lim says.

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New estimates released this week suggest the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic will reach even greater levels of awfulness before 2020 is over: A prominent forecasting team projects that between now and Jan. 1, the virus will kill an additional 1.9 million people worldwide, pushing the total death toll by year's end to above 2.8 million.

It's one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.

To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.

By Dec. 1, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could reach nearly 300,000. That's the grim new projection from researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — one of the more prominent teams modeling the pandemic. The new forecast, released Thursday, projects that between now and December, 137,000 people will die on top of the roughly 160,000 who have died so far.

Renee Bach, an American missionary who operated a charitable treatment center for severely malnourished children in Uganda despite having no medical training, has settled a lawsuit brought against her in Ugandan civil court by two women and a civil rights organization.

At least 105 children died in the charity's care. Bach was being sued by Gimbo Zubeda, whose son Twalali Kifabi was one of those children, as well as by Kakai Annet, whose son Elijah Kabagambe died at home soon after treatment by the charity.

For weeks the U.S. coronavirus pandemic has largely been driven by spiraling outbreaks in the South and West. But some forecasters say Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states could soon be in deep trouble again, too.

The warning comes from researchers at the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which has built a model to provide four-week forecasts for every U.S. county. NPR spoke to David Rubin, PolicyLab's director, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Here are five takeaways:

The American conversation around masks and COVID-19 has taken a dizzying turn. For months, wearing masks has been politicized as a sign of liberal leanings. But in recent days, ever more governors — many of them Republican — have moved to mandate masks. This week President Trump — arguably the nation's most visible mask un-enthusiast — started referring to wearing them as "patriotic."

Over the last month more than 1,000 current and former staffers with the aid group Doctors Without Borders have signed a letter with an explosive accusation: The vaunted organization, they say, is built on a mindset of "white supremacy" that perpetuates "racism by our staff, in our policies, in our hiring practices, in our workplace culture, and through the imposition of dehumanising 'humanitarian' programmes by a privileged,

Just weeks after parts of the U.S. began reopening, coronavirus infections are on the upswing in several states, including Arizona, Utah, Texas and Florida. Dramatic increases in daily case counts have given rise to some unsettling questions: Is the U.S. at the start of a second wave? Have states reopened too soon? And have the recent widespread demonstrations against racial injustice inadvertently added fuel to the fire?

In an open letter to a top Trump Administration official, 77 Nobel prize-winning American scientists say they are "gravely concerned" about the recent abrupt cancellation of a federal grant to a U.S. non-profit that was researching coronaviruses in China.

More than 82,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19 as of Tuesday. How many more lives will be lost? Scientists have built dozens of computational models to answer that question. But the profusion of forecasts poses a challenge: The models use such a wide range of methodologies, formats and time frames that it's hard to get even a ballpark sense of what the future has in store.

Updated on May 5 at 3:02 p.m. ET to include additional White House reactions.

On Monday the New York Times published what appeared to be an explosive finding: an internal document from the Trump Administration that forecast many more coming deaths from the coronavirus than the president has predicted publicly.

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Updated on May 1 at 10:50 a.m. ET

The U.S. government has suddenly terminated funding for a years-long research project in China that many experts say is vital to preventing the next major coronavirus outbreak.

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