Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

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We're tracking a hostage situation in Mali today. Two gunmen took over an upscale hotel. The Radisson Blu is in the capital, Bamako. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is following this story from London and joins us now. Good morning.

A goat stew has been simmering in Ghana's cooking pots for months.

It all began in March. President John Dramani Mahama was definitely in hot water. He'd been facing an unprecedented series of strikes and protests over poor delivery of services and economic difficulties.

On an official visit to Botswana, he reportedly told an audience of expatriate Ghanaians:

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In a speech marking Zimbabwe's National Heroes Day on Monday, President Robert Mugabe said Zimbabweans had failed in their responsibility to protect Cecil the lion.

"Even Cecil the lion is yours," he said. "He's dead, but he was yours to protect and you failed to protect him."

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Noisy trolleys roll bales of tobacco on and off the auction floors in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. Here they call it "green gold." Some of the country's estimated 100,000 small-scale tobacco farmers look on, hoping for profitable sales.

Auctioneers, quoting prices at high speed, pace up and down rows of extra-large jute-covered bundles, with yellow tobacco leaves spilling out.

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"Where can I go now?" asks Temptation Tekera.

He is one of an estimated 20,000 street vendors in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe.

The vendors sell everything from sweet potatoes to new and used footwear to pirated CDs. Goods splay across the sidewalks, making it a minefield for pedestrians in a hurry.

Now the government wants the vendors to pack up their wares and register and pay rent for one of 6,000 places in designated zones. The deadline is June 26. The goal is to restore order to the once sedate city.

On May Day, Zimbabwe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, posted a bleak tweet, listing what he described as his country's triple challenge after the economic crash of 2007-2008: "We've workers without work, we've lost the sense of labour value and we lack a strategy to create wealth."

Zimbabweans lament that life is tough and everything is expensive in their U.S. dollar-based economy.

So how do people get by?

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She is one of the African health workers who caught Ebola and died. Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh was the head of First Consultants Medical Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. In July, Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer flew sick to the city from Monrovia, ended up at her clinic and turned out to have Ebola. He wanted to leave. Dr. Adadevoh and her team refused to let him go — if she had, he could have triggered a wide-scale epidemic in Lagos, a city of 20 million people.

Dr. Ada Igonoh says her faith and ORS (oral rehydration salts) helped her pull through after she tested positive for Ebola. The 28-year-old Nigerian doctor was on the medical team that cared for the country's first Ebola patient, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American who flew into Lagos sick and died at the clinic where she worked. Nigeria was hailed for halting what many feared could have been a catastrophic outbreak. Dr. Igonoh shares her story of fear, faith and recovery.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Florence Allen Jones used to teach in Washington, D.C., before coming back home to Liberia.

Now she's part of the education ministry's teaching-by-radio team. Working with UNICEF and another nonprofit, Talking Drum, in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, the government aims to provide lessons to children across the country, hit by the Ebola outbreak. Most schools closed this past summer and will likely remain closed for months.

Ebola has cast a shadow over Liberia, but it can't stop Christmas.

Despite the trauma of the past year, Liberians are trying to have a happy holiday season. Carols are playing on the radio and there's lots of decorating — and painting — going on.

"At a certain time of the year we want our homes to look good," says journalist Siatta Scott Johnson. "It's like a competition in Liberia when it comes to the festive season."

Ganta is the Liberian city that never sleeps. That's what local businessman Prince Haward says of the town of 40,000, one of the country's largest cities and a crossroads for travelers in the southeastern region: "Ganta is a nonsleeping city ... a business-oriented city."

Just off Tubman Boulevard — Monrovia's busy main thoroughfare — stands a plywood hut with a large blackboard at the front, in three panels. On them — written in clear, bold white chalk lettering — is a form of newsreel: mini-articles and editorials, as well as graphics and illustrations. The creator of Daily Talk — this Liberian journal with a difference — is Alfred Sirleaf. He's 41 and has been "writing" the news since 2000, three years before the civil war ended.

For months, Liberia was the country worst-hit by the Ebola outbreak. But the wards in Liberia's Ebola treatment units now stand virtually empty. The number of newly reported cases fell from almost 300 cases a week in mid-September to fewer than 100 by mid-October.

But that doesn't mean it's time to take it easy. In fact, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has just announced a new campaign, Ebola Must Go, which focuses on the role of the community.

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Liberians have been gripped by crisis after crisis. A long and brutal civil war shattered the West African country and now Ebola. But NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been looking into another far lighter side of life in that country - fashion.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf hopes to ring in the holidays with an ambitious goal: no new cases of Ebola in her country by Dec. 25.

"We believe we had to set a target that gave our people hope, a target that would make them more committed to taking all the precautionary measures," she says. "Yes, it's called ambitious, but sometimes you have to take a risk in being ambitious."

As Nigeria's military continues to battle Boko Haram fighters for control of towns and territory in the turbulent northeast, fearful residents are leaving — or being driven out of town. More than 200 schoolgirls, abducted by the Islamist extremists in April, are still missing.

Hoisting the black flag of al-Qaida, the insurgents have imposed strict Islamic law in areas under their control, vowing to establish a caliphate.

Hopes were raised when the Nigerian military announced a cease-fire last month with the militants of Boko Haram, who have been fighting for years to impose Islamic law on Nigeria.

But the Islamist extremists denied there was a truce and have intensified deadly attacks and kidnappings in recent weeks, seizing territory said to be the size of Maryland and declaring a caliphate in the zone under their control.

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The African Union has given the new military authorities in Burkina Faso two weeks to hand power back to civilians, or face sanctions.

This follows the abrupt resignation of the president last week, after days of street protests opposed to him trying to prolong his 27-year rule.

Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida, from the elite presidential guard, is the new interim military leader after a brief power struggle within the army.

Have you ever swallowed unflavored rehydration solution, or ORS? That's what they call the mixture of salt, sugar and water given to Ebola patients.

I've taken more than a mouthful, and urgh! It tastes dreadful.

But doctors who were among Nigeria's Ebola survivors all agree that they may not have recovered from the virus without having forced down the foul-tasting, but apparently life-saving fluid.

Gallons of it.

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As U.S. troops begin arriving in Liberia to help contain the regional spread of Ebola, a physician in the capital is grappling with the virus upfront.

Dr. Martha Zarway's life turned upside down when one of her clinic staff members — a friend — died on Sept. 2 amid rumors that the cause of death was Ebola.

Harrison Sakilla, a 39-year-old former teacher, can't stop smiling.

"I have to smile," he says. "I'm the first survivor for the case management center here from Ebola."

Former patients like Sakilla, who've recovered from the virus, lift the collective spirit at at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola center in Liberia's northern town of Foya. He was admitted to the high-risk isolation unit, which is part of a cluster of large tents that make up the bulk of the center.

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