In early 2016, northeast Brazil became the epicenter of the Zika epidemic, bringing enormous change to thousands of people’s lives. There was an increase in microcephaly cases unparalleled elsewhere in the world, a condition where babies are born with unusually small heads and often have associated brain damage. New mothers wondered whether their child would ever talk, or even walk; expectant mothers anxiously awaited ultrasound results to learn if their baby had the condition. Some pregnant women had to decide between buying food for their families, or bug repellent to protect themselves from Zika. A microcephaly wing was created in one of the region’s hospitals to serve the spike in need for medical care of babies with the birth defect. Brazil’s government sent health workers to every infested neighborhood to hunt down and kill the insects that carry the virus with pesticide and larvicide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dispatched researchers to the region in hope of unraveling the mystery between the Zika virus and microcephaly. A new community within the this region quickly formed as a result of this virus and birth condition: a community of mothers and their families, whose lives have been forever changed.
According to the Human Rights Watch, 70-90% of women in Pakistan have experienced some form of domestic violence. Government-run shelters throughout the country house women from all walks of life who have come to seek protection.
Some women are brought to the shelter by a family member who has shunned them in the name of honor. Some women come to the shelter on their own, fearing for their lives. If a woman refuses to marry a man of her parents choosing, or marries a man she loves and has chosen on her own, or seeks a divorce from her husband, her family may deem her action dishonorable -- perhaps even punishable by death. Pakistan's Interior Ministry acknowledges more than 4,100 honor killings between 2001-2004.
Many women come in alone, with little hope and once inside they are nearly cut off from the outside world. They are separated into rooms according to their legal circumstances, and leave the shelter only when their court order comes through. Because lawyers are costly, and can only be arranged by relatives or the government, many women end up having no choice but to stay in the shelter for months or even years. But still, inside, they find friendship and support in one another; cultivating hope and rebuilding their lives for when they begin life outside the walls of the shelter.
A Lasting Toll
Two years since the official end of the recession, Californians from all socioeconomic levels remained some of the hardest hit. Still struggling to find work, pay mortgages or simply make ends meet, many are confronting the fact that they may never fully recover.
Reduced earnings, strained relationships and shattered dreams are among the lingering effects on these three southern California families as they continue to endure the hardships brought on by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Health Care in America
Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a nonprofit organization established to provide medical care in third-world countries. But in the United States, the cost of health insurance has become so high, and the need for care so great, that over half of RAM's free clinics are now in the U.S.
Every summer, RAM comes to the Wise County, Virginia, fairgrounds to hold its largest U.S. clinic, providing close to 3,000 people in one weekend with free dental, vision, and medical care. Most of these people would go without this vital care if it were not for RAM; they simply could not afford it.
People drive hundreds of miles and wait for hours, even days, sleeping in their cars and tents outside the fairgrounds gate. Still, at the end of the weekend, some people are turned away.
Growing Up in a Madrassa
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, many who joined the resistance arrived as schoolboys out of Pakistan. Religious academies there had prepared young bodies and souls for the deadly fight, but since September 11, 2001, these same madrassas stand accused of breeding suicidal extremists.
Students spend their days memorizing scripture, praying five times a day and sharing simple meals. In 2002, the government of Pervez Musharraf required the schools to add subjects such as math, science and English, but, as of yet, most madrassas do not offer the changes. The backbone of all learning, and the ultimate goal of each student, is to memorize the Koran.
In the current generation, Pakistan madrassas house and educate somewhere between 600,000 to 2 million students. Each year, thousands more graduate to become part of the Muslim clergy. Others, however, eagerly join the armed jihad, heading straight for insurgent training camps and on to any target that displeases their elders.