Malaka Gharib

Malaka Gharib is deputy editor and digital strategist of Goats and Soda, NPR's global health and development blog. She reports on topics such as the humanitarian aid sector, gender equality, and innovation in the developing world.

Before coming to NPR in 2015, Gharib was the digital content manager at Malala Fund, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai's global education charity, and social media and blog editor for ONE, a global anti-poverty advocacy group founded by Bono. Gharib graduated from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and marketing.

On Friday, we posed this question to our audience: What do you think of the way poor countries are portrayed by aid groups and the media?

The question came in light of President Donald Trump's reported description of El Salvador, Haiti and nations in Africa as "shithole countries" last week.

It's an idea that is now spreading around on Twitter in the global development community.

Maybe the reason President Trump called El Salvador, Haiti and nations in Africa "shithole countries" is the way the media and aid groups portray poor countries.

The idea was brought up by Owen Barder, the vice president of the Center for Global Development, a think tank on international issues like aid and poverty, in a tweet he posted on Friday:

Natalie Portman is so done with male bias in Hollywood. On Sunday, before reading out the top picks for best director at the Golden Globes, she said: "Here are the all-male nominees."

She's not the only one who's over industry sexism.

Pope Francis has some surprising things to say about the state of the world.

On Monday, Pope Francis delivered his annual address to his diplomatic corps, ambassadors from 183 nations to the Holy See. The speech outlined a bold vision for a peaceful, free and just world. The pontiff touched on themes that have been in the headlines, like the Syrian war and the Rohingya refugee crisis.

When I read Esther Ngumbi's story about "Kenyan time," I burst into laughter.

In my culture, we have that, too — except we call it "Filipino time." Just like Kenyans, social events and appointments don't really start at the scheduled hour. Heck, in our family, we'd stroll into Sunday mass 30 minutes late!

Since 2015, Tariq Khokhar, a data scientist, has been compiling an annual list of top charts from the World Bank. It's a mix of the group's most popular research and what's been trending in the news that year.

The list of charts for 2017, co-produced by his colleague Donna Barne, paint a "pretty good" picture of the world, "as most of human progress has been in the long run," says Khokhar. For example, it's easier than ever for entrepreneurs to start a business.

"Feminism" was the most looked-up word in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary in 2017.

We've profiled some extraordinary women in Goats and Soda this year who should be cited in the dictionary's definition. They pursued their goals in the face of poverty, war and prejudice.

On December 1, we ran a story about "the best and worst charity of ads of 2017."

I always get excited putting together Goats and Soda's list of most-read stories of the year. To me, it reveals a lot about how our audience feels about the world — What did you find surprising? Share-worthy? Illuminating?

You loved the stories that got you woke: how to ethically take selfies while volunteering abroad; how the Western media visually portrays women and girls in the developing world.

For the past couple of days, Johan Mooij has been holed up in his basement.

He's the country director for CARE in Yemen, and recent airstrikes sent him underground for safety.

Despite the destruction, disease and starvation he has witnessed in his two months in Sanaa, he has also seen countless examples of hospitality, concern and care among the Yemeni people — as well as signs of progress in controlling cholera.

"I think this is why this country has been able to keep up for so long," he says.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on December 1 and has been updated.

World AIDS Day was December 1. The White House hung a red ribbon. Hundreds of red balloons were released in the air in Brazil. And Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made their first appearance as a royal couple at an AIDS charity event in Nottingham, U.K.

Think before you snap that selfie.

That's the serious message of a joint campaign created by two groups that have spent the past few years poking fun at problematic photos taken by Western volunteers. They often have the tendency to paint themselves as saviors to needy people in low-income countries.

Across Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Maria are scrambling to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For many, it has been a stressful and confusing process. Power and phone lines are down, which makes it nearly impossible for residents to fill out the online form or call the FEMA hotline to ask questions or follow up on the status of their application.

Before they hand over the cash, Mercy Corps staffers are going door to door to find out: What would people buy?

If Karian Batista had $100, she would buy food. "I don't have enough for the kids," she says.

Just seven months ago, Puerto Rican chef Jose Sanchez opened the restaurant of his dreams: a place where you could feel like you were in Italy one day, and like you were in France the next.

He served up fusion cuisine and called it Pera Maraya. There was deconstructed ratatouille, caprese salad with octopus. The restaurant in Carolina, east of San Juan, was getting rave reviews: five stars on Yelp, Trip Advisor and Facebook. He spent nearly a decade saving up to open this restaurant, and was overjoyed at how quickly it found success.

With so much going on in the world right now, we wanted to know from our audience: Which global problem keeps you up at night?

Which global problem keeps you up at night?

That's what we asked Amina J. Mohammed, the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations at the Global Goals Awards ceremony in New York City last week.

It's not an easy question to answer in a world buffeted by disasters: hurricanes, earthquakes, famine and refugee crises.

But without skipping a beat, Mohammed, a Nigerian diplomat who is No. 2 in command at the U.N., said:

It's the latest in a series of Trump remarks that went viral.

Sometimes it's hard to get people to pay attention to the biggest problems of the world — poverty, hunger, disease. But what if they were printed on M&M's?

Why would anyone want to harm an aid worker?

They're just there to help. They don't take sides. They're protected by international humanitarian law. Yet they've repeatedly been the target of some of the worst forms of violence, from kidnapping to gang rape to beheadings. In 2016 alone, 288 aid workers were attacked.

The mid-August monsoon floods in South Asia were the worst in a decade. But for Rajdeep Bora, it's a familiar feeling.

"We suffer two to three floods a year," says the 29-year-old farmer, who lives in Gohpur, Assam, in northeastern India. Last month, his 2-acre rice crop was ruined and he lost two cows — worth about $800.

"The loss of livestock is heartbreaking enough," he says. "But the morning after a flood, there is no clean water to drink. Mobile services and transport shut down. In some parts of Assam, floodwaters don't recede for as many as two months."

After signing up for Airbnb, Godwin Ndosi waited four months for his first guest. That was back in 2015. He went on to become a superhost, renting out his family's house in Arusha, Tanzania, for a bargain rate of $15 a night to tourists from around the world. Did he stick with it?

On Godwin Ndosi's Facebook page, photos from his adventures over the past year — his travels to Europe, wild animals from safari trips he's led to the Serengeti, selfies with tourists who's stayed at his home — fill his timeline.

With a reported 50 inches of rainfall, flash flooding and high, murky waters, Hurricane Harvey in Houston has gripped America's attention. But halfway around the world, another flood has wreaked havoc on historic levels. Two weeks ago, record monsoon rains hit parts of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, bringing the worst floods the region has seen in years. Over 1,200 people have been killed and 24 million affected.

If a famine occurs, aid groups send food. If there's a war, they set up health clinics.

But what to do in event of a massive cyberattack? A new disease epidemic?

A July report has an alarming message for the aid community: adapt or be left in the dust.

Corruption.

Some U.S. officials cite it as one of the biggest reasons to stop giving aid to the developing world.

Sen. Rand Paul, for example, claimed that 70 percent of foreign aid is "skimmed off the top," in January.

But economist Charles Kenny says they've got it wrong. "The evidence that aid is siphoned off isn't there," he says.

The women used to be so nervous about playing wheelchair basketball in public that they had opaque screens erected to conceal the court.

Now their faces are being splashed across media outlets in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, Afghanistan's national women's wheelchair basketball team won its first championship at the 4th annual Bali Cup International Tournament in Indonesia. It played against women's teams from India, Indonesia and Thailand, beating Thailand 65-25 in the final match.

A 50-cent meningitis vaccine. Kid-friendly malaria drugs. A vaccine to prevent a deadly diarrheal disease.

These U.S.-funded global health innovations have saved millions of lives around the world. But they also come with an added bonus for Americans.

They were teenage brothers. They had big dreams to be doctors. But there was no way it could happen. They were living in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war, studying in classrooms set up in tents.

"We thought we were forgotten," says Kamiar Alaei. But that was a long time ago. He's now 42 and an internationally recognized doctor.

When he was 10, a war injury put him in a wheelchair. His spine was permanently damaged. He was so depressed there were days he refused to get out of bed.

Now Mohammadullah Amiri can't wait to get up in the morning.

It's all because of wheelchair basketball. Since the 36-year-old from Afghanistan discovered it, he has become a changed man, says Jess Markt, his coach.

What we eat and how we cook our food tells a story about who we are, where we've come from and what we care about. Our food also connects us to other people — family and friends with whom we share our meals. That's why our favorite dishes often stir up strong memories of people we love.

Over the next month, NPR's The Salt and Goats and Soda blogs are teaming up to present six short cooking videos. Each video will feature one dish made by one person who shares with us the memories they associate with the dish.

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