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We Asked, You Answered: Which Global Problem Keeps You Up At Night?

Rohingya refugees collect drinking water from a pump in a camp in Bangladesh.
Aurélie Marrier d'Unienville
Rohingya refugees collect drinking water from a pump in a camp in Bangladesh.

With so much going on in the world right now, we wanted to know from our audience: Which global problem keeps you up at night?

/ Malaka Gharib
Malaka Gharib

It's a question we'd asked at the U.N. General Assembly last month. And even though it's a tough one, our interviewees were quick to answer. U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed had an instant response to our query. "Myanmar," she told NPR without hesitation. "That for me is horrendous."

We received 151 submissions from our readers. Most of the responses came from the headlines. Climate change topped the list, followed by President Trump's leadership style and a fear of a potential nuclear attack by North Korea. If we had asked the question in the wake of the tragic Las Vegas shooting last week, no doubt we would have received more responses on gun safety and violence.

While this is by no means a scientific study, our question was a chance to see what's top of mind when it comes to sleepless nights. Here's a sampling of submissions from our readers, edited for length and clarity.

Climate change

"Climate change keeps me up at night and leaves me feeling powerless. I ask myself repeatedly, what is my part in all of this? Can I use my bicycle more often? Can I avoid using air conditioning unless absolutely necessary? Staying awake at night won't do anyone any good, but focusing my energy into reversing this trend is critical." —Bea Spadacini

Rohingya refugees

"The plight of the Rohingya. The suffering, the violations of human dignity. How are we not stopping this? How is brutal genocide still part of this world? We are all part of this tragedy because we are not protecting these people." —Elizabeth Anne Jones

Clean water

"Global freshwater scarcity. From Los Angeles to the rural villages of the Middle East, we're already having water supply issues and it doesn't get as much attention as it deserves." —Jacqueline Brenner

Economic crises

"The economic collapse of Venezuela. I fled Venezuela for the United States at a young age, but seeing the country that formed me in its current state of crisis seems nonsensical, particularly when looking at pictures of public hospitals without running water or mental health facilities lacking toilet paper." —Ana Gutierrez

Global pandemics

"I am frustrated and horrified that we are still not ready for the next disease outbreak. After the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa, many global commissions made specific recommendations for how the world must prepare for the threat of an epidemic. This includes everything from scientists developing better vaccines and medicines to leaders in susceptible countries sharing information and building stronger health programs. Most of these ideas have been forgotten or ignored, and there is very little money to support them." —Gabrielle Fitzgerald

Conflict in Yemen

"It breaks my heart to see the people of Yemen suffering from war and displacement, especially pregnant women and their children. The cholera outbreak on top of all of this suffering is especially heartbreaking. When will the world stop this needless fighting and start taking care of its people and the planet we live on?" —Alexis Shoda

Thank you to everyone who participated in this month's #CuriousGoat.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Malaka Gharib is the deputy editor and digital strategist on NPR's global health and development team. She covers topics such as the refugee crisis, gender equality and women's health. Her work as part of NPR's reporting teams has been recognized with two Gracie Awards: in 2019 for How To Raise A Human, a series on global parenting, and in 2015 for #15Girls, a series that profiled teen girls around the world.
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