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Tots on errands, phone mystery, stinky sweat benefits: Our top non-virus global posts

From left: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty ImagesAowen Cao/NPRYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty ImagesMatthew Stockman/Getty Images
From left. Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty ImagesAowen Cao/NPRYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty ImagesMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

Though viral diseases grabbed most of our headlines this year, some of our other stories definitely caught your eye.

Topping the list was a story about how much autonomy should be granted to very young kids, sparked by 'Old Enough!,' a Netflix show about unsupervised toddlers in Japan running errands for their parents.

You were also captivated by two mysteries in China: one about a video that captured an unknown woman chained to a wall; and the other about a public payphone in Beijing that kept ringing and ringing.

Stories about humanitarian crises in Ukraine, Ethiopia and Afghanistan were important to you, but you also enjoyed some lighter stories, such as life hacks from India on how to stay cool, a look into why your body odor isn't so bad, and an emerging peace between Senegalese farmers and a scruffy shrub.

Finally, you were fascinated by a study about a gene mutation from Black Death survivors that may help their descendents survive future outbreaks — but not without a cost.

We're glad you joined us, and promise to bring you some more engaging (non-viral disease) stories from around the world in 2023!

A 4-year-old can run errands alone ... and not just on reality TV

A Japanese TV show now on Netflix, 'Old Enough!,' has sparked much debate about the wisdom of allowing very young kids to be very independent. Risky? Beneficial? Child development experts weigh in. Published April 20, 2022

Donated clothes help in Ukraine. But there's one thing aid experts like better.

While welcome, some donations don't address the needs of displaced and homeless Ukrainians who've lost nearly everything they own. Several aid groups are turning to a new tactic: cash aid. Published March 22, 2022

The mystery of the chained woman in China

A video shows her chained inside a shed. It got nearly 2 billion clicks and has sparked a national debate over her identity, whether she is mentally ill — and whether she was trafficked as a bride. Published February 17, 2022

Black Death survivors gave their descendants a genetic advantage — but with a cost

Nearly half of Europeans died from the plague. Now a new study shows a protective gene mutation that survivors passed on to help with future outbreaks might cause other problems. (Bubonic plague is caused by a bacteria, not a virus!) Published October 21, 2022

Why stinky sweat is good for you

So sweat doesn't really smell bad at all. But when bacteria eat the sweat — nostrils, look out! Only it turns out that these sweat-eating critters are responsible for a big health benefit. Published August 25, 2022

'Where is humanity?' ask the helpless doctors of Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region

Civil war has blockaded the country's northern region and decimated a hospital system that serves nearly 7 million people. Without basic supplies, power and medicine, thousands are needlessly dying. Published October 14, 2022

Opinion: Life hacks from India on how to stay cool (without an air conditioner)

Heat wave researcher Dr. Gulrez Shah Azhar grew up in Uttar Pradesh, India, without an A/C unit. He shares tips on how to deal with the heat — including wearing a wet scarf around your neck. Published August 2, 2022

A public payphone in China began ringing and ringing. Who was calling?

It started in July. The callers live in Gourd Island, and they were hoping to share an important message that they say was being ignored by their local authorities. October 3, 2022

Families were split up during Afghanistan evacuations — and are still not reunited

After the Taliban takeover, family members — even spouses — were sometimes separated during U.S. evacuation efforts. Now a global network of volunteers are trying to bring out those left behind. Published April 5, 2022

Farmers in Senegal learn to respect a scruffy shrub that gets no respect

For decades, they've been told to rip out the Guiera senegalensis shrub. But now there's a new philosophy: The scrappy green plant could be the key to a better harvest. Published February 20, 2022

What it's like being a woman in Afghanistan today: 'death in slow motion'

That's the title of a newly released report from Amnesty International, covering a range of issues affecting girls and women under Taliban rule. Foremost among them are child and forced marriage. Published July 27, 2022

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Dalrymple