Nurith Aizenman

Alsarah was born in Sudan to politically active parents. When she was still a child a coup there forced the family to flee to Yemen. Then, after civil war broke out in Yemen, they had to flee again, this time to Amherst, Massachusetts — all by the time Alsarah was 12. But please, says the singer-songwriter, don't pigeonhole her as some sort of "refugee artist."

It's a policy battle that has been playing out over three decades.

In 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan imposed an anti-abortion rule — known as the "Mexico City policy" after the city where he announced it. The rule blocked federal funding for international family planning charities unless they agreed not to "promote" abortion by, among other actions, providing patients with information about the procedure or referrals to providers who perform it.

It's the fifth annual #Giving Tuesday — a holiday marketing tradition inspired by Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, but with a twist. Today thousands of charities are asking us to open our wallets. But how can we be sure the group we donate to is effective — that we're getting the most bang for our charity buck?

Donald Trump will take office at a pivotal time for the world's neediest.

The world's wealthy countries have, since 2000, been part of a historic partnership with poor countries to eliminate poverty and roll back diseases.

"I would like to know more about microloans, and if they are in fact helping women start businesses in the developing world."

That's the question our readers wanted us to look into.

Should the United States aspire to the kind of fast-paced economic growth China and India enjoy?

That's what Donald Trump seemed to say at this week's presidential debate: "I just left some high representatives in India. They're growing at 8 percent. China is growing at 7 percent, and that for them is a catastrophically low number. We are growing, our last report came out, it's right over from the 1 percent level. And I think it's going down."

But are comparisons like this meaningful?

On Friday the United Nations is set to appoint Wonder Woman its honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. The cartoon character, turning 75 this year, will be the face of a social media campaign that the U.N., will launch at a star-studded ceremony in New York. The actress Gal Gadot — who plays Wonder Woman in the movies these days — is scheduled to be there. So is Lynda Carter, who portrayed the superhero in the 1970s television show.

It sounds like a typical melodrama of a movie — a saga about a big family with issues galore. There's the widowed grandfather who desperately misses his wife. The sensitive younger son who dreams of being a musician. And the daughter who's dipping into the family's stash of cash to pay a con artist who pretends to be a faith healer.

It had all the trappings of a typical beauty contest: Contestants in evening gowns strutting before the judges, a talent portion, and of course, a sparkly tiara for the winning lady.

It's almost a year to the day since world leaders committed to meeting 17 "Sustainable Development Goals" by 2030, from wiping out extreme poverty to fighting disease and inequality.

Perhaps they should have added an 18th goal — compiling all the data needed to achieve the other goals.

This data gap has been the talk among advocates for the poor this week as the U.N. General Assembly's current session got underway. It was at last year's General Assembly that the 17 goals were set.

Can a country have a split personality?

When it comes to Colombia, there's the upper-middle-income nation of gorgeous cities: Think gleaming skyscrapers, landscaped parks and smooth bike lanes all set against stunning mountains.

Then there's the other Colombia, a vast stretch of rural territory that's desperately poor and at best, effectively lawless. At worst, many of these areas are still dominated by some combination of guerrilla forces, paramilitary groups and drug-trafficking gangs that have flourished over 50-plus years of civil war.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It was one of the worst moments of Durga's life: the morning her father suddenly announced that in about a week's time she would have to get married.

She was 15 years old. Her husband-to-be was in his 40s, had barely been to school and had a reputation as a heavy drinker. Even by the standards of their village in Northern India — where child marriages are still commonplace — this was a singularly bad match.

Georgina Mamba wasn't blind. Yet when she was in the fourth grade she was kept for months in a class for kids who couldn't see.

Then she was transferred to a class for the hearing impaired — even though Mamba wasn't deaf either.

Mamba's problem: At age 2, she contracted polio and essentially lost the use of her lower limbs. And in Zambia, where she's from, the educational options for physically disabled people are extremely limited.

What do Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Albania, Germany and Ethiopia have in common?

Turns out all five countries do better than average when it comes to turning their national wealth into a better life for their citizens.

There's also a list of countries that do worse than average. Spoiler alert: The United States is one of them.

This unusual gauge of national success is the brainchild of analysts at the Boston Consulting Group.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Etharin Cousin heads the United Nation's World Food Programme — but lately she sounds more like the captain of a ship facing some very ugly weather.

"We are seeing all the indicators of a perfect storm coming toward us in Southern Africa," Cousin said in a recent press call this week. "And we are saying that we have the opportunity to move this boat in a different direction and to avoid the storm."

Updated June 29 at 3:14 p.m.

Today Sotheby's attempted to auction the largest diamond discovered in over a century — a hunk of transparent rock the size of a tennis ball. It was found last November at an open-pit mine in the southern African country of Botswana. At 1,109 carats it's second in size only to the storied "Cullinan" diamond found in South Africa in 1905 and cut down into nine of the gems in the United Kingdom's Crown Jewels.

When Zika started spreading through Latin America earlier this year, a number of governments issued advisories recommending that women put off getting pregnant because the virus can cause severe birth defects. At the same time these countries kept in place strict laws that would prevent a woman from getting an abortion if she were already pregnant.

Evelyn Amony was just a few weeks shy of her 12th birthday when rebel soldiers from the Lord's Resistance Army abducted her from her village in Northern Uganda. It was the summer of 1994, and for the next 11 years she would endure a series of unfathomable hardships: grueling marches through the mountains during which any child soldiers who lagged behind were beaten to death as an example to the rest.

What does helping a 3-year-old control her temper tantrums have to do with reducing global poverty? Quite a lot, says Dana McCoy.

Will this summer be hotter than average?

How much rain can we expect?

A key step to answering questions about the weather is to consult the historic record. But what if there were no record? That's the predicament that Rwanda faces. The civil war and genocide that devastated that country in 1994 also destroyed Rwanda's system for tracking weather. The result was that for a roughly 15-year stretch, Rwanda has almost no record of what its weather was like.

It's been a week of global powwows: the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, the G-7 Summit in Ise-Shima, Japan, and the World Health Organization's World Health Assembly in Geneva.

But if you happen to be a horse, there was really only one gathering that mattered: The annual general session in Paris of the World Organisation for Animal Health (or OIE as the body is known by its French initials).

World leaders have celebrated Earth Day today by gathering in New York to sign a historic climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But some of the most vital environmental work is being done by ordinary citizens with extraordinary courage. People like subsistence farmers and tribal leaders in the poorest countries are standing up to some of the world's most powerful industries. And a growing number of them have been attacked — and sometimes murdered — for trying to protect the environment.

It was a hospital — but to psychologist Inka Weissbecker it looked more like a prison. She had come to South Sudan to check out the country's only health facility for treating patients with mental illness.

"There was a hallway leading past these cells with bars on them," she recalls. "Behind one set of bars I saw a mattress covered in plastic. And on it was urine and feces — and this woman lying with her face to the wall. I don't know if she was dead or just sleeping. Nobody seemed to care."

He's a Bangladeshi who's been knighted by the Queen of England. A former accountant who left an executive position at Shell Oil to devote himself to the world's poorest. And when it comes to eliminating poverty, he may be the most influential man you've never heard of. Meet Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and head of a nongovernmental international development organization called BRAC. Today the University of Michigan honors Abed, who is 80, with its Thomas Francis Jr.

Critics call them "parachute researchers": Scientists from wealthy nations who swoop in when a puzzling disease breaks out in a developing country. They collect specimens, then head straight back home to analyze them. They don't coordinate with people fighting the epidemic on the ground — don't even share their discoveries for months, if ever.

Sometimes it's because they want to publish their results – and medical journals prefer exclusives. And sometimes it's because they can make a lot of money by coming up with copyrighted treatments for the disease.

The boys and girls at the party are matched up by height. They dance together. Maybe they do a little grinding. They talk about love ... and marriage. Then they eat birthday cake.

That doesn't sound like a radical event. But in a predominantly conservative Muslim slum in the Indian city of Kolkata it was unheard of. And what made it happen? Lush, romantic Bollywood movies.

That's what Kabita Chakraborty learned after she began doing research in Kolkata.

The world is in danger of running out of vaccines for a deadly disease: yellow fever. A major outbreak in the African nation of Angola has already depleted the stockpile that world health officials had set aside for emergencies. It's unclear whether new vaccines can be made in time — even as officials worry that the epidemic could spread through Asia and beyond.

They're simply test tubes, mainly filled with blood and saliva, but to researcher Beatriz Parra Patino, they're a lot more.

To her, each tube represents "a human being." And the blood and saliva may hold the answer to one of the many mysteries about the Zika virus sweeping through her native Colombia: Is it linked to Guillan-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition with excruciating effects, including temporary paralysis.

"I treat the tubes as if I was treating the person," she says, "with respect and trying to do my best."

Pages