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Karachi's ambulance drivers

In Karachi, with a population of around 20 million people, ambulance drivers are on the front lines of this megacity’s shifting conflicts. Samira Shackle joins one of these drivers, Muhammad Safdar, on his relentless round of call-outs. As a first-responder for more than 15 years, Safdar has witnessed Karachi wracked by gang wars, political violence and terrorism. At the height of the unrest, the number of fatalities was often overwhelming. With no state ambulance service in Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation, set up by the late Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1954, stepped in to offer services to the poor. Safdar drives one of its fleet of 400 ambulances: rudimentary converted vans with basic emergency provision. His missions bring him to many of Karachi’s most deprived and troubled areas, revealing the complex social and economic problems at the heart of the country. As Samira and Safdar traverse this enormous city, their experiences reveal a remarkable story of life and death in contemporary Pakistan.

OS Conversations: Spain's tourism industry

During a period of huge uncertainty, Spain's tourism industry suffers a setback while musicians in South Africa, Denmark and the United States share creative challenges and how they are reconnecting with audiences during the coronavirus pandemic

The ginger gene and breast cancer gene

A particular version of the ginger gene MC1R underpins the fiery hair and freckled complexion of redheads, famed and feared in many cultures. But it is also linked to increased pain sensitivity and skin cancer risk. So where did it come from? And are redheads really endangered? As far back as the 19th Century, doctors realised that some types of cancer seemed to run in families, but it was not until the last decades of the 20th Century that scientists started to pin down the genetic culprits. Faults in two of these genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, significantly increase the chances of developing breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.

The confined: A story of hidden children

In 1942 in Nazi occupied France Jews were hunted and those helping them could be sent to concentration camps. Despite the dangers a Catholic nun took a stand that saved the lives of 82 Jewish children. Led by Sister Denise Bergon they hid the children for two years in the convent boarding school of Notre Dame de Massip. Out of around 15 nuns, only four knew the identities of the children taking shelter. Three survivors talk of their unique bond with Sister Denise and how they escaped the clutches of French collaborators and an SS Division which would become notorious for its massacres in the area.

South Africa’s alcohol ban

For the second time during its Covid-19 outbreak, South Africa has decided to ban sales of alcohol. How does that have an impact on the workload of doctors in hospitals treating coronavirus patients? In Colombia, the economic impact of the pandemic is so desperate in poorer neighbourhoods that some people are hanging red flags outside their homes as a cry for help. Bergamo in Italy was once at the epicentre of the global outbreak as coronavirus spread into Europe. But after 137 days, the intensive care unit at one of the main hospitals now has no Covid-19 patients. We speak to the doctor in charge.

Wuhan: City of silence

The BBC’s China correspondent, John Sudworth, travels to Wuhan – the city on the banks of the Yangtze river where Covid-19 first emerged. As the city returns to life, he examines one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind: did the virus emerge naturally or could it have been leaked, as the US alleges, from a Wuhan lab, where work was being carried out to research bat viruses? As John and his team discover, asking questions and getting answers in Wuhan is no easy task.

Reporter: John Sudworth
Producer: Kathy Long

Photo: Two motorcyclists in Wuhan, China - June 2020 Credit: Getty Images

Coronavirus: The economic shock

In a few short months the coronavirus has turned the world upside down. Alongside the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of deaths, the world is now bracing itself for a brutal economic impact.
Whether it is components for manufacturing, our food and medical supplies or the contents of our shop shelves and our fridges we depend on complex global economic relationships which now look shakier than ever.
The BBC’s business editor Simon Jack talks to some of the world’s most influential economic and business thinkers on how they think the Covid-19 crisis is changing the worldwide business and economic landscape and what they think the world might be like when the crisis is over.

World debate: Re-engineering the future

All over the world engineers are being called on to re-purpose and solve the problems the global pandemic creates. We bring together an audience of engineers and the general public from six continents to share insights to inspire innovation worldwide.

How are engineers reinventing our world to fight the virus? What can they do to re-imagine the everyday and make life safer and easier across the globe?

Presenter Kevin Fong is joined by a panel of four leading engineers from around the world who respond to questions, comments and first-hand accounts from a global audience linked by Zoom.

The panel:
Luke Leung: Director of Sustainability at international architecture and engineering firm SOM
Linda Miller: Transport infrastructure engineer at the major engineering and construction firm Bechtel
Rebecca Shipley: Director of UCL’s Institute for Healthcare Engineering
Carlo Ratti: Director of MIT’s Senseable Lab

This is a special edition of an annual event series staged in partnership with the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

Kenya’s locust hunters

East Africa has seen the worst invasion of desert locusts for decades and there are warnings of even larger swarms to come. Millions of people across the region, who are already feeling the impact of coronavirus and floods, will now face increased hunger and poverty. Just an average swarm can eat the same in a day as 2,500 people for a year.

For Assignment, the BBC’s Senior Africa Correspondent Anne Soy joins Albert the Samburu herdsman turned locust hunter as he struggles to track the pests who have been decimating crops and pastures across his native northern Kenya. It is a race against time to exterminate this generation before they breed another, larger, more voracious generation.

Producer: Charlotte Atwood
Editor: Bridget Harney

(Image: Man chasing away a swarm of desert locusts in Samburu County, Kenya. Credit: Fredrik Lerneryd/Getty Images)

New York Covid-19 diary

Public health leader Dr Tom Frieden reflects on the ongoing global pandemic. An expert on infectious disease, Dr Frieden is a former director of the US States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was a leading figure in the global response to the Ebola outbreak and he now heads Resolve to Save Lives, an Initiative of Vital Strategies, an organisation dedicated to the prevention of epidemics. From his New York apartment, Dr Frieden provides his unique insight on the unfolding international situation. He records his response to key moments in the development of the pandemic and the measures being taken to face it in the United States, Africa and across the world.

The edge of change

BBC Media editor Amol Rajan and a panel of guests analyse how the coronavirus pandemic has created new opportunities to change our world. They range across topics including geopolitics and the rise of China; the role of technology and ownership of information; and perceived and genuine inequality. Guests will include: Kevin Rudd, former Australian prime minister Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile George Osborne, former UK chancellor Zoltan Kovacs, Hungarian secretary of state for public diplomacy

193 episodes

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