Nurith Aizenman

Officials and activists from around the world gathered in New York this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark 1995 World Conference on Women.

Although there were a lot of depressing statistics discussed at the current meeting, there was one piece of good news that many kept citing as reason for hope: Since 1995 the rate of women worldwide who die in childbirth has dropped by more than 40 percent.

Midtown New York City is buzzing with thousands of women's rights activists. They're in town for a milestone session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which runs through the end of next week.

How's this for a tough first week on the job: An earthquake rocked Haiti just five days after physician Rajiv Shah took over as head of the main U.S. agency for overseas disaster relief. The death toll was about 200,000. The U.S. was scrambling to mobilize a response. And President Obama decided Shah should be the one to lead it.

"The president called and said 'Raj, I hope you'll make us proud,'" Shah recalls of the 2010 disaster. "And I felt a deep passion and commitment to do that. So I was excited. But I was also frankly overwhelmed by the amount of work we had to do."

For six weeks, American doctor Kwan Kew Lai kept a blog, almost every day, while she volunteered at an Ebola treatment center in Liberia.

Ebola treatment centers are isolated, self-contained worlds, with their own grim rhythm: Every day, people stream in, terribly sick. And in the space of a few days, they either live or they die. Then the next wave arrives. Because the risk of infection from Ebola is so high, access to the ETUs has been severely limited. So we've had only brief glimpses into them.

Tomorrow Morning Edition will broadcast an audio documentary based on a blog by American doctor Kwan Kew Lai. Starting last October, Dr. Lai wrote almost every day, for six weeks, while volunteering at an Ebola treatment center in Bong, Liberia.

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