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What it's like to live in Southern Africa's worst drought in 35 years.

'We cannot risk losing an entire generation of children to the drought.'

What it's like to live in Southern Africa's worst drought in 35 years.
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Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

Rita Mazive had never touched a camera before, but she knew she needed to document the situation she was in.  

“I have never used a camera before, and I have neither seen myself in a photo or in a mirror,” the 43-year-old from Mozambique told the global development organization CARE.

‌‌Rita Mazive. Image via Johanna Mitscherlich/CARE.‌‌


Rita is one of 40 million people in Southern Africa trying to survive the worst drought in 35 years.

Thanks for nothing, El Niño.

El Niño, the climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean that has a global impact on weather patterns, has rocked Southern Africa — specifically Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. The region usually receives rain between October and April, but because of El Niño, the 2015-2016 season rains didn't fall until late-February.

In an area where 70% of the population depends on agriculture, you can imagine the predicament millions of families are facing: severe food shortages.

The realities of drought and food insecurity are hard to grasp when you've never experienced them. So CARE wants to give people around the world a glimpse into the lives of those who have.

El Niño: Through the lens of hunger” is a photo project that shows what life is like in an extreme drought, through the eyes of those living it.

Step 1 for the project's volunteers: learn how to use a camera. Step 2: go about your day.

‌‌Mira and Olga, two young mothers in Mozambique. Image via Joao Lambo/CARE. ‌‌

Each volunteer provides their own unique focus behind the lens. Through photos, they show insights into life in their communities — as they also suffer from food shortages — and their volunteer work with CARE, counseling community members and providing crucial health and hygiene information to them.

In the project, the images show the sacrifices families are forced to make.

‌Many older people are taking care of their grandchildren, because the children's parents have left to find work elsewhere because of the drought. ‌Image via Rita Mazive/CARE.

Such as how hard it is to put education first.

Many girls get up before dawn to find firewood and sell it, struggling to earn 5-10 cents per day for their families. Some still attend school, but often cannot make it in the lengthy time it takes to collect firewood and get to school. Image via Rita Mazive/CARE.

Especially when it takes two hours to walk to school.

These friends in second grade walk two hours to school and two hours back home every day. The secondary school is even further, which results in many kids dropping out after primary school.

It's not easy to learn on an empty stomach.

Many kids go to school on an empty stomach, making it hard to concentrate.. "We have only enough food for one meal at 5pm, when he returns from his classes," said one mother.

And it's still important for kids to be ... kids.

"It is very important for their development," said volunteer Tereza Titosse. "I have six children myself, and I know how difficult it sometimes is to keep up the energy to engage them. But we cannot risk losing an entire generation of children to the drought.”‌ Image via Hortencia Jacinto/CARE.

The images show the increasing focus on safe water...

CARE volunteers teach families to cover their drinking water and use a trowel to help stop dirt and leaves from falling into it. Unclean water is a major reason kids get sick.  Image via Joao Lambo/CARE.

Even though it can take a daily eight-mile-walk to find it.

18-year-old Erleia walks 14 kilometers to fetch water every day. Image via Rita Mazive/CARE.

Not to mention the 11+ miles to find wild fruits to eat.

‌Laura walks for 18 kilometers to find wild fruits like tindhzulo and wild leaves of cacana.‌ Image via Artur Tafula/CARE.

Traveling long distances can create a dangerous situation for women and girls.

There's an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence as girlsneed to travel ever increasing distances in search of water and food, especially when it gets dark. Image via Paulina Filipe/CARE.

‌‌The images show what people in these communities eat now.

Wild leaves and fruits are a go-to. Image via Rita Mazive/CARE.

And how they prepare it.

"I dry the tindhzulo fruit for two to four days in the sun. Usually we use peanuts, but that is not available because of the drought. I then crush the dried fruits to prepare and cook them." Image via Artur Tafula/CARE.

But, most importantly, the images show that these communities are doing the best they can with what they have.

Image via Hortencia Jacinto/CARE.

"I know it’s difficult for people in Europe or the U.S. to understand what this drought actually means for us," said CARE volunteer Artur Tafula. "With my photos, I want to show what people eat, how long they have to walk to find food, how they process wild fruits and leaves, and just how much time and effort is required to make it through another day.”

The times are tough, but they can, and will, get better.

Organizations like CARE are working with volunteers and community members to minimize the impact of the drought and to help get people back on their feet. Some of the steps being taken are as simple as focusing on safe water and sanitation and good hygiene practices.

Broken water systems are being repaired and communities are becoming more prepared for reoccurring disasters. Farmersare learning drought-resistant agricultural techniques, and they're being introduced to alternative sources oflivelihood and income too.

Image via Tereza Titosse/CARE.

These are all ways to move forward, but there's a lot more that needs to be done. A better understanding of the situation in Southern Africa is the first place to start. CARE's photo project, letting the stories come from the source, is a genuine  way to help close the awareness gap.

"I hope that many people will stop seeing El Niño and the drought as something abstract, and start seeing the situation through the eyes of the volunteers," wrote CARE representative Adérito Bie.

The next generation is counting on it.

via Pixabay

Talking about politics at work can be a really touchy situation. It's good for people to be able to express themselves in the office. But it can lead to serious tension when people don't see eye-to-eye. It can be especially difficult when a company takes a hard line on a controversial issue that employees are forced to stand behind.

So Basecamp, a project management software company based in Chicago, has just decided to ban talking about politics at work altogether. It seems the company tried to foster an open atmosphere but it backfired.

"Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," co-founder Jason Fried wrote in a post on the company website.

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via Pixabay

Talking about politics at work can be a really touchy situation. It's good for people to be able to express themselves in the office. But it can lead to serious tension when people don't see eye-to-eye. It can be especially difficult when a company takes a hard line on a controversial issue that employees are forced to stand behind.

So Basecamp, a project management software company based in Chicago, has just decided to ban talking about politics at work altogether. It seems the company tried to foster an open atmosphere but it backfired.

"Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," co-founder Jason Fried wrote in a post on the company website.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."