Nurith Aizenman

It's a problem that has come seemingly out of nowhere. Over the last five years a worrisome number of low-income countries have racked up so much debt they are now at high risk of being unable to pay it back — with potentially devastating consequences not just for their economies but for their citizens, many of whom are already living in extreme poverty.

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'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.

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.

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.

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.

Keila Atuesta Jaimes, a petite 25-year-old, is lying on an exam table next to an ultrasound machine. The doctor moves the wand across her belly. It's pretty flat. She's only about three months pregnant. Then suddenly, there's the heartbeat!

Atuesta smiles. Nervously. About three weeks ago she came down with the kind of rash and fever she figured could mean only one thing: Zika.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Two weeks ago, Jenny Tolosa found out she was pregnant.

The 23-year-old had no idea. "I didn't have any symptoms," she says. "I totally didn't expect this." She giggles, because she was excited by the news.

But she was also worried. She says her first thought was, "I think I had Zika last December!"

That's the mosquito-borne virus that's spreading through Latin America — and has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, which causes an abnormally small head and possible brain damage.

What if you could never get a good night's rest? Some low-income people around the world face that challenge. A team of researchers is investigating whether sleep deprivation keeps some in poverty. (This piece originally aired on All Things Considered on Dec. 2, 2015.)

In 2000 the world's leaders agreed on an ambitious plan to drastically reduce global poverty by 2015. Called the Millennium Development Goals, the targets spurred an unprecedented aid effort that brought lifesaving medicines and vaccines to millions of people and helped slash the share of people in the developing world who live in extreme poverty from 47 percent in 1990 to 14 percent today.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When Elynn Walter walks into a room of officials from global health organizations and governments, this is how she likes to get their attention:

"I'll say, 'OK, everyone stand up and yell the word blood!' or say, 'Half of the people in the world have their period!' "

It's her way of getting people talking about a topic that a lot of people, well, aren't comfortable talking about: menstrual hygiene.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, more about the woman who's building the case against those six officers. Marilyn Mosby is 35 years old. She just took the office of chief prosecutor in Baltimore four months ago. NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports.