On World Poetry Day, hundreds of children affected by conflict and war share Poems for Peace
UNICEF amplifies the poems of children and young people in conflict-affected countries, with over 1,700 submissions coming from Ukraine alone.
Maria, age 12, submitted a poem after leaving Odessa, Ukraine.
NEW YORK, 21 March 2023 – In commemoration of World Poetry Day, hundreds of children and young people around the world have published poems to highlight their experiences of conflict and war, and to call for peace, as part of UNICEF’s Poems for Peace initiative.
Now in its fourth year, Poems for Peace seeks to amplify the voices of young people living in countries affected by conflict and war and their hopes for peace at home. The poems demonstrate many shared and common themes, highlighting how war affects children, but also including a distinct sense of hope for the future. The initiative, introduced by UNICEF in 2020, seeks to promote children and young people’s voices in peacebuilding processes, while inspiring audiences to speak out on the importance of the protection of children in armed conflict.
Since the initiative’s inception, UNICEF has received thousands of poems from children and young people ranging in age from 8 years old to 24 years old, and has accepted submissions from all over the world, including Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This year, more than 1,700 submissions were received from children and young people affected by the war in Ukraine.
"The poems submitted have shown us the resilience, creativity, and hope that exists within the hearts of young people, even in the face of the most challenging adversity,” said Naysan Sahba, UNICEF Director of Global Communication and Advocacy. “As we celebrate World Poetry Day, we are reminded of the power of poetry to give voice to those who are often unheard, and we renew our commitment to ensuring the inclusion of children and young people in peacebuilding efforts."
Since 2020, Poems for Peace have been viewed more than 26 million times on UNICEF’s global social media channels, and many of the submissions have been featured on local, national, and international radio stations, and at global events.
This year, the young poets involved in the initiative include 12-year-old Maria, who was forced from her home in her beloved Odessa, Ukraine, due to the war, and has been watching events unfold on the news.
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…
World Poetry Day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity. Poems have long been a catalyst for dialogue and peace, and for uniting people and cultures in a common humanity and shared values.