Maria Cheng’s Work

Maria Cheng is a London-based European medical writer for the Associated Press, focusing on accountability issues in public health. Cheng and colleagues were behind a series of award-winning investigative articles that revealed how the World Health Organization botched its responses to outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa and yellow fever in Central Africa. Before joining the AP, Cheng worked for WHO in Geneva and for publications including Time Magazine in Hong Kong. She is a graduate of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York and a native of Canada.

Cheng has been a leading voice in investigative global journalism on hospital detention, with in-depth, photographically-rich reports from around the world that link global hospital detention practices to public health policies established by the WHO, the World Bank, and UNICEF decades ago.

Hospital Patients Held Hostage for Cash
This is the first piece in a two-story series on hospital detentions, there is an investigative report on hospital detention in Kenya with photography by Bram Janssen. This piece includes commentary by global research institutes, including the Harvard Global Health Institute and Chatham House (a British think-tank on Universal Health Coverage).

Congo Hospitals Openly Jail Poor Patients
This is the second of a two-story series on hospital detention, Cheng’s report  emerged out of intensive, on-the-ground investigative research in DRC hospitals, with photographs by Jerome Delay and Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro.

Hundreds of thousands of poor people detained in hospitals
This is another report on hospital detention in Congo,  published in the Washington Post with Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro. In a quote that speaks to hospital detention as a globally-kept “open secret”, Cheng writes of her research in Congo: “The only ones who claim they don’t know what’s happening in Congo, it seems, are more than a dozen major health donors and agencies who invest billions of dollars in the country and have major operations there — including the European Union, UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross, PATH, Save the Children, the U.S. Agency for International Development and World Vision. ” (Cheng 2018).

Slovak Hospitals Hold Roma Women Against Their Will
Another crucial investigation by Cheng is provided in “Slovak Hospitals…” which involves research in Roma communities and within hospital spaces, covering not only the problems posed by detention itself, but also the obstetric violence and rampant discrimination that Roma women experience during and after delivery. With telling commentary by doctors who support the practice, this piece deepens understandings of hospital detention not merely as a problem faced by Sub-saharan African or East Asian communities, but as instituted parts of healthcare frameworks that exist in EU countries.