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China Abandons One-Child Policy

Today, China abandoned its 35 year-old one-child policy. 

Based on the now debunked threat of overpopulation that was popularized by Stanford University scholar Paul Ehrlich, the communist government subjected the Chinese people to forced sterilizations and abortions. Many new-born babies were either killed or left to die. 

Today, the Chinese population suffers from a dangerous gender imbalance that favors boys over girls at a ratio of 117:100, and a demographic implosion that threatens future economic growth and prosperity. 

The one-child policy is a reminder of what happens when governments are allowed to interfere in deeply personal decisions of individual citizens and their families.

The 7 Emotional Needs of Children

All children are born with emotional needs. These needs must be met by the adults in their life if they’re to grow into confident and independent adults.  The acronym PARENTS summarises children’s needs (Protection, Acceptance, Recognition, Enforced limits, Nearness, Time and Support).

Protection: It’s crucial that all children feel safe and secure. This is essential for their very survival – and all children fear rejection and abandonment.  They need a sense of order and predictability, routine, peace and stability – so they can learn to trust others, and build relationships. However, if trust is absent, and they feel insecure, they’ll start to put up walls to keep other people out, and they’ll find it hard to trust and get close to anyone.

Acceptance: All children need to feel that they are loved and accepted - for who and what they are – without any strings attached. They so desperately want to be worthy of acceptance, and cherished and loved despite their limits and their failings. This is crucial information - for their parent is a mirror who reflects back to them the world’s perception of the child. It should tell them they are valuable and worthy of love – so the child learns to value and believe in themselves. However, if a parent is demanding, harsh or critical then the child will develop chronic low self-esteem.

Recognition: Children have an innate need to make their parents happy, and are desperate for praise, and to hear their parents say: “I’m so proud of you. You did a fabulous job.” But if approval is withheld, so the child feels they are worthless, they’ll likely give up hope, and they will lose the will to try. This may show itself in angry, acting out behaviour … or the child may withdraw, and expect little in life.

Enforced Limits: Children need a sense of predictability. They need to see that rules are followed, so life is NOT chaotic. For the world feels scary and doesn’t make much sense if boundaries are fluid and “just anything goes”.

Nearness: Expressing love is crucial for communicating love - so children need to be held and be hugged by their parents. In a very concrete way, this sends the powerful message that the child’s needs matter, and their parents care for them.  

Time: Children don’t distinguish between quality time and just hanging out, and spending lots of time with parents. They need to be in their presence, and to have their full attention, as that sends the message “I like being with you.” They then believe that others will like and want them, too.

Support:  The outside world is a scary place for children. It’s full of unknown dangers and unmet challenges. Thus, to launch out and discover they can cope and survive, children need to be certain that their parents’ will be there. That is, they need their encouragement, their affirmation, their constant support and their belief in the child. That helps the child to venture into and explore the outside world, so they develop independence and increased autonomy.

Here’s how one of the world’s most common toxins is poisoning American children

Flint, Michigan is in the midst of a horrific crisis. For years, lead has been leaching from its corroded pipes into its water supply, poisoning its residents.

Lead is one of the most egregious toxic metals that can enter the human body. While it sickens people of all ages, young children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies absorb four to five times as much as adults.

For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that there are no safe levels of lead exposure for children. According to the World Health Organization, lead exposures contribute to 600,000 new cases of intellectual disabilities in children each year.

Here are the different ways lead exposures can often irreversibly harm young children.
Los Angeles midwives aim to end racial disparities at birth
A movement of black midwives is working to stem the rates of African-American babies dying every year for preventable reasons.

Nationwide, black women are at the greatest risk of pregnancy-related death, have the highest rates of C-sections and, compared with whites, black infants are four times as likely to die of complications at birth and twice as likely to die before their first birthday. These startling disparities have persisted for decades, and they’re no different in Los Angeles, where more than 130,000 black babies are born every year.

We eliminated measles by the year 2000. And now, because parents are choosing not to give vaccines because of their false — or at least ill-founded — concerns, other people are suffering.
—  Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, joined Democracy Now! for a 45-minute discussion on the debate over vaccinations, parental choice and public health. Watch it here.
Learning to get HPV vaccines to the world’s poorest girls

Celina Hanson (Gavi), Paul Bloem (WHO) & Emily Loud (Gavi). 

Women in developing countries disproportionately suffer from the burden of cervical cancer, yet often their countries do not have resources to establish screening programs that save women’s lives elsewhere.  In these countries, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination provides an amazing opportunity to prevent cervical cancer and protect women’s health.

Vaccine delivery poses challenges, many of which are the same that we see for other vaccines.  These may include not having enough fridges to keep the vaccines cold, or not enough health workers to vaccinate children, or children living in isolated rural areas where distance and unpaved roads make it harder for parents to reach facilities.

Other challenges are unique to the HPV vaccine.  To start, most countries have experience vaccinating infants and these vaccinations are given when women visit clinics with their babies.  The HPV vaccine, however, is not given to babies but to girls between 9 and 13 years old.

Here are some lessons from the experiences of introducing countries so far:

Learning by doing

Before introducing the HPV vaccine at a national level, many countries have started to learn by vaccinating girls in a small area to determine the best delivery strategy.  Doing this in a Gavi supported pilot or demonstration also allows countries to secure the technical assistance they need, to develop training and monitoring materials, and to consider the integration of vaccination with other health services.  This learning allows countries to develop solutions to challenges that were not anticipated.

Map: from original article

Health and education – achieving more together

Schools have been a popular place around which to centre much of the delivery of HPV vaccines in these countries.  In order for this strategy to work well, strong co-ordination between health and education sectors is essential.  From planning the vaccination dates, engaging schools in mobilization of parents and girls, to supporting implementation of vaccination sessions – schools and teachers make important contributions, which have translated in high acceptance levels of this new vaccine.

A venue for HPV vaccination in Ghana. Photo: Gavi/Evelyn Hockstein 

How to reach all girls affordably?

In order to reach all girls with the vaccine, countries are testing other strategies to reach different populations as well, such as outreach and using alternative facilities. Delivering HPV vaccine with other health interventions like deworming, menstrual hygiene education or tetanus shots is also being explored. 

A girl living in a rural Ethiopian community. Photo: Gavi/Niligun Aydogan. 

HPV vaccination as a catalyst

HPV vaccination is a highly effective intervention – but it must be linked to effective screening and treatment programs to prevent cervical cancer.  The demonstration programs assist countries to strengthen comprehensive cervical cancer prevention and control plans.  Over time, it can also act as a catalyst for even wider health interventions that benefit all adolescents.  

Kids pose together in the Pokhara region of Nepal. Photo: Gavi/Oscar Seykens.

This blog was based on a review of progress that was recently published in the journal Vaccines. Read it in full here.



The government has banned the adoption of Kenyan children by foreigners.

The decision was arrived at during a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi on Thursday.

The licences of those involved in inter-country adoptions were revoked with immediate effect.

“The decision has been informed by Kenya’s ranking by the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 that cited Kenya as a source, transit and destination country in human trafficking,” said a Cabinet memo sent to newsrooms.

The country is also ranked at Tier 2 Watchlist for non-compliance with minimum standards for elimination of trafficking, based on the 2014 US State Department report on trafficking in persons.

“Currently, Kenyan laws do not define child sale, child procuring, child trade and child laundering as part of trafficking,” said the memo.

The Cabinet said this had in effect put Kenyan children at high risk.


“This has created a loophole for fraudulent vested interests, masquerading through ownership of children’s homes, adoption agencies and legal firms representing children, and adopters, to engage in the unscrupulous business of human trafficking under the guise of charity,” the Cabinet said.

A report released in August by Cradle, a child rights organisation, indicates that children as young as two were victims of trafficking for illegal adoption.

However, according to the organisation, prosecution of culprits has remained elusive since investigations were not being conducted by the relevant state agencies.

A 19-year-old missionary from Oklahoma was recently charged in a US court for sexually abusing children in an orphanage in Nairobi.

Meanwhile, the government is considering allocating additional funds to the Uwezo Fund in the next financial year to accommodate the huge number of youths and women interested in the assistance the fund provides.

To all the survivors out there..

This website has a test for you to assess what your life traps are (formally called early maladaptive schemas).

Lifetraps have been learned in the childhood and in the adolescence as the way to react, feel, think and behave. When a lifetrap is activated today, we tune in to the feelings of childhood and operate unconsciously according to the coping styles learned in the childhood. Our emotions are not the actual problem, but the way they “lock us” in the harmful behavior. Lifetraps make us avoid or escape, surrender or attack in our life situations. These methods are harmful in adulthood and they work against us.

Everyone has lifetraps. Our lifetraps make us sacrifice in close relationships to avoid feeling guilt, they make us submit to demands of others with the fear of unpleasant consequences or they make us adapt ourselves in group situations not to become outsiders. They cause us to demand from ourselves unreasonably good performance or dodge the challenges in the fear of a failure. They make us strive for new goals over and over again so that we will never achieve peace of mind. Because of our lifetraps, we feel guilty and worry about past mistakes. They make us feel bad, stupid or selfish and they make us feel shame and unworthiness, even though there is no need for that.

This year in vaccines

Emily Loud, Gavi

Success stories

Photo: Global Polio Eradication Initiative. 

Let’s start with the good news - there was a lot of it this year! 2015 began with a massive boost for global immunisation, as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance secured $7.5 billion for the future of making vaccines work in the world’s poorest countries.

World immunisation week in April followed with countries across the world celebrating growing global achievements, as well as raising awareness about protection gaps in some of the poorest countries.

Commemorations and reflections continued as the millennium development goals (MDGs) came to an end, and their successors, the sustainable development goals (SDGs), were agreed. Immunisation was recognised as having played a key role. It was no surprise, then, to see vaccines included in the new sustainable development goal three, which aims at ensuring access for all.

Other success stories were less high-profile, but still impressive. MenAfriVac - a vaccine against meningitis A made specifically for Africa - was one. Since its launch across the “meningitis belt” of Africa in 2010, it has reached 220 million people and brought about the near elimination of the strain against which it protects.

By the end of 2015, systematic progress towards vaccination to eradicate polio worldwide was also clear. Nigeria was officially removed from the list of polio endemic countries in September, significantly fewer cases had been reported than 2014, and both countries where polio remains most problematic  - Pakistan and Afghanistan - had introduced inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to stop the virus in its tracks.

New vaccines and future planning

The aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue fever, as well as other diseases.  Photo: Muhammad Mahdi Karim via Creative commons

Vaccine innovation also saw prominent results in 2015, as shots for malaria and dengue were approved for some form of use, while the new cholera vaccine stockpile and protection against Japanese encephalitis reached more people than ever. The pipeline of future protection also looked promising, with vaccinations against RSV (a key cause of childhood pneumonia), MERS, Ebola, universal flu strains all edging closer to market in over the past 12 months.

Need for further progress

Sadly, not everything this year was quite so rosy. From polio in Ukraine to measles in DRC and the USA, outbreaks showed us that there is still a way to go before the lifesaving power of vaccines is fully utilised.

Tragic situations in Sudan and elsewhere demonstrated the limits of vaccination without supporting political and diplomatic action to help them reach the most vulnerable.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa called into question the process by which vaccines are made and highlighted the desperate need for strong health systems for any basic interventions to function, vaccination included.

New threats of infectious disease also loomed, demanding more attention for the world’s preparedness approaches and planning.

As the sustainable development goals were finalised, further issues about how they will be measured and supported also arose, which now linger.

Towards the end of the year, the challenges of achieving universal health care and global health security were also emphasised, and will remain key issues in the coming year.

Overall, 2015 was a hopeful year for immunisation and our growing power to protect populations from preventable disease. But there is much left to do if we are to make this optimism reality in 2016.

Happy new year!

Imagine you’re walking in the forest and you see a bear. Immediately, your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary, which sends a signal to your adrenal gland that says, “Release stress hormones! Adrenaline! Cortisol!” And so your heart starts to pound, your pupils dilate, your airways open up, and you are ready to either fight that bear or run from the bear. And that is wonderful – if you’re in a forest and there’s a bear.
But the problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night, and this system is activated over and over and over again, and it goes from being adaptive, or life-saving, to maladaptive, or health-damaging.
—  Nadine Burke Harris, How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime
(TEDmed talk, 16 mins)