UNICEF shares its growing collection of deeply personal works that show resilience, creativity and hope in the face of danger and adversity.
We have to continue lighting the Earth with peace.
And we will not stop the dialogue, even if we are running out of words.
So writes Amjad, a 14-year-old boy in Yemen, a country where millions of children and families have been suffering the effects of war for nearly a decade.
UNICEF has received thousands of poems like Amjad's from children all around the world since launching the Poems for Peace Initiative in 2020. The project invites young people who are living in countries where there is armed conflict, or who have fled their home countries to escape conflict, to use poetry to share their feelings and experiences and to express their hopes for a more peaceful future.
It is a way for UNICEF to shine a spotlight on the extraordinary strength and courage of young people who know firsthand what it's like to live with violence, fear, uncertainty; who have been traumatized while being torn from their homes, friends and schools; children who are desperate for a more stable future.
The poems show the "resilience, creativity and hope that exists within the hearts of young people, even in the face of the most challenging adversity," Naysan Sahba, UNICEF Director of Global Communication and Advocacy said.
By amplifying youth voices in this way, UNICEF is also hoping to convey the importance of involving children and young people in peace building.
Submissions have been received from poets aged 8 to 24, from Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Syria and many other countries. This year, more than 1,700 submissions arrived from children and young people affected by the war in Ukraine alone.
It was May 2022 when Maria, 12, left her beloved Odessa, Ukraine, with her mother. They are living in Bucharest, Romania, where they plan to stay until the war in Ukraine ends.
Her poem is written as a letter to a father:
Dear dad, do you remember what day it is?
Today is my birthday. The seventh one!
Why didn’t I receive a letter?
Come on, write something good!
Dear dad, I heard grandma saying something about you,
Like you won’t come back home anymore, but is that true?
But there were no more letters from my father
Because somewhere on the far away field,
Filled with dark smoke,
Is lying a dead soldier…
UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to save and meaningfully improve children's lives — focusing on the most vulnerable. Learn more about how UNICEF helps children in conflict.