Anti trafficking in India

The vaccine within us

By Elena Gaia

The world remains on the lookout for vaccines against Coronavirus, and celebrating any signs of progress.

And yet, for the pandemic that strikes more than one billion children every year, the vaccine is already within our reach, in our pockets so to speak. We don’t need expensive research and development budgets or large pharmaceutical companies to produce it.

Earlier this year, our organisation spoke about the heightened risks of acts of violence being perpetrated against children during lockdowns; children have also broken the silence around the harsh realities of their disrupted lives in confinement.

How do we ensure children can experience childhoods free from violence? Allow me a minute to use music to look at the four main ingredients of the vaccine they all need.

  1. Love, the very opposite of violence, is what the world needs now. But what is love? With as many definitions as there are human beings on this planet, one universal truth holds: you know love when you experience it! And that famous song got it wrong: too much love can never kill!
  2. We also need a little patience, hanging on, especially when our day is long, and we think we’ve had too much. That’s when we long for someone who listens, someone we can lean on.
  3. There's not a thing that I would change, 'cause you're amazing, just the way you are: who wouldn’t wish to hear a version of these words at least once in their lifetime? That is acceptance.
  4. We all have said it many times: please forgive me! Often what it takes is simply to say hello, I’m sorry.

On a more serious note, these four elements are reflected in the scientific body of work the global community of experts in ending violence against children has produced on the matter. Under the label of parenting resources, these tips for adults are one of the 7 evidence-based strategies that have demonstrated tangible results in preventing or reducing different forms of violence against children in different communities and contexts.

These evidence-based life hacks are useful even if you, like me, are not a parent or carer: you can apply them to other relationships. And for people of faith, the Bible has of course plenty of wisdom to offer, as have the holy books of many other religions.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic aftershocks affecting vulnerable children and families in so many countries, even the most committed governments may find it challenging to invest in all the multi-sectoral programmes required to address the root causes of violence. Why don’t we start with the work that is already within our reach – the work that can instantly touch the lives of all two billion children on this planet?

For institutions, governments and donors, this means prioritising funding to programmes that help and accompany parents and carers in their journeys with children. For individuals like you and me, it means investing in ourselves and how we relate to the children we interact with. There are plenty of free online resources to help parents and families, especially in times of Covid-19, such as those that World Vision launched this year in Brazil, Lebanon and Mongolia. Prophets, philosophers and economists all agree: it is the small everyday acts that over time compound into the largest impact.


Elena Gaia is World Vision's Director of Global Campaigns. Follow Elena on Twitter @elegaia