Skip To Content

2020: A Year in Pictures

The stories behind the photographs

This collection of photographs is a reminder that 2020 has been a year of opposites: Loneliness and community. Despair and hope. Fear and kindness.

We don’t yet know the full impact coronavirus will have on the mental and physical health of people around the world, or on children's education, or gender equality. But we do know that not everyone will have an equal chance in the comeback. If your family’s already living in poverty, you have no safety net. If you're the only breadwinner, you can't take time off to grieve. A pandemic is harder to fight in a refugee camp. Economic catastrophe is exacerbated by conflict.

But this year has shown us what’s possible when the world comes together to fight a deadly outbreak. And the lengths to which teachers, healthcare professionals and community workers will go, to support people in their care.

And as always, our greatest source of hope is children. The moments in these photographs show young people determined to learn, families connecting in isolation, children playing against a backdrop of disaster.

That they can carve out happiness and inspire us despite everything is extraordinary. But that’s not enough. We have to match their optimism with action. We have to make their world better than it is now, despite the year we’ve had and the challenges we face ahead.

Rania*, 16, at her home in Gaza where she lives with her mother and father

Rania*, 16, at her home in Gaza where she lives with her mother and father. January 27, 2020. Photographer: Alessandra Sanguinetti

Rania’s* house was destroyed and her father lost his job during the conflict in Gaza. In desperation her parents considered child marriage. “My family wanted to get rid of me and marry me off for money and tradition,” says Rania, who was just 14 at the time. She had been pulled out of school two years earlier because her family could no longer afford to send her. 

Having seen her two elder sisters marry at a young age, she was convinced she wanted a different path for herself.  
 
After meeting our case workers, Rania was protected from a similar fate. “I told them my story and that I didn’t want to get married,” she says. After receiving advice and support to open their own business, Rania’s family re-enrolled her in school.

Now 16, Rania has her sights set on a better future: “My hope is to fulfil my dream, which is to study law. I would defend the children of Palestine.”

Prisca*, six, inside her home in a camp in Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of Congo

Prisca*, six, inside her home in a camp in Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). November 11, 2020. Photographer: Hugh Kinsella Cunningham

When armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) attacked the village where Prisca* lived, she was forced to flee with her mother and grandmother to a displacement camp.  

"I saw a lot of corpses,” says the six-year-old. “We took some small luggage on our heads and just the clothes we were wearing. I feel good at the camp because there is no weapon noise here.” 

But life in the camp is not easy. Prisca sleeps on the floor with just a thin blanket for warmth, and she and her family have very little food each day. She’s now part of one of our programmes, which helps displaced children to return to school. 

Photojournalist Hugh Kinsella Cunningham recalls photographing Prisca during a rainstorm: “For the project I used flowers and items to mess around with a camera lens… She had an unbelievably strong personality and, despite her age, spoke eloquently of her story with the conflict. Prisca is just one child in one of 64 similar camps, many of which are still in zones with a high risk of armed group activity.” 

Hamida*, 11, studies at home before going to a school supported by Save the Children in a village outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Hamida*, 11, studies at home before going to a school supported by Save the Children in a village outside Kandahar, Afghanistan. February 3, 2020. Photographer: Lynsey Addario

“I remember the bullets, I remember everything,” says 11-year-old Hamida*, of the time her father and grandfather were murdered by armed men in front of her. “The fight was playing in my eyes.” Hamida and her surviving family fled their home and settled in a village outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.  

“I am very happy here and I don’t have to worry about fighting,” says Hamida, who is now going to one of our schools, which supports girls and boys to return to mainstream education. “We learn from books and I can also read and write. I know everything now...”  

Hamida was photographed by veteran conflict photographer Lynsey Addario, alongside other girls affected by war: “In a lot of countries where war is ongoing, education is the first thing to go. Schools close down because of insecurity or families are just simply too scared to send their kids to school. 

“Education is so important, not only for the mere fact that it enables someone to be able to read and write and to one day have a job, but also to take a young child outside of their world and the daily grind of doing dishes, collecting water, cooking. School gives them a purpose outside of the home. 

“All the girls talked about how once you have education you can do anything. It opens a lot of doors to young women here.” 

Lexi-Mae, five, and her mother Georgina outside their home in Sheffield, UK.

Lexi-Mae, five, and her mother Georgina outside their home in Sheffield, UK. May 22, 2020. Photographer: Hanna Adcock

"I could be an animal rescuer, an artist and a ballerina! Three at once!" Lexi-Mae is a bright, sociable five-year-old, who loves school and her friends and has a vibrant imagination. “She’s one of the brainiest five-year-olds I know”, says her mum Georgina. 

So living through the UK’s lockdown in Sheffield has been hard for her, but like so many children, she’s shown remarkable resilience. And Georgina was determined to make the best of the situation, nurturing a stronger relationship with her daughter. “It has brought us a lot closer together,” she says. 

Photographer Hanna Adcock met the family during a summer heatwave. “Lexi-Mae was one of the chattiest, happiest little kids I’ve met,” she recalls. “She was straight in there telling us about her birthday, family and love of guinea pigs. Since lockdown she’d become even more confident. 

“Her mum bought her a new bed from the Save the Children Emergency Grant, meaning her old mattress was reused as a temporary trampoline in the garden. 

“For this picture she decided to jump up on the wall outside her house and pose for a picture. I was drawn to the composition because her mum was much more cautious and quiet, and you got a sense of that with her standing in the doorway. Lexi-Mae was ready to take on the world.” 

Safa, four, holds one of her family's goats in Somalia.

Safa, four, holds one of her family's goats, in Somalia. July 16, 2020. Photographer: Mustafa Saeed

Amina and her granddaughter Safa*, 4, moved to a village in Somalia after they lost all their livestock to drought. Initially they lived in makeshift huts without a latrine, but now things have changed. The family was photographed by Mustafa Saeed, who remembered this about meeting them:  

“Safa* and her grandmother were the last people I met [that day]. They told me the other members of the family were out, trying to work in the city. It was at the end of the day, and after sitting down and doing the interview and talking to the family, I felt I was going to lose the light, but luckily, I was able to get a few shots with their comfort.  
 
“Safa loves to play around the hut – ardaaga – which means the space between the hut and the sticks surrounding the small territory of their home. She only goes further when she’s bringing the goats back at the end of the day.  

“When I asked her if I could photograph her alone, she felt shy. After a few poses, she saw the goat running next to her and decided to grab her. She was comfortable posing with her small goat rather than alone." 

Lydia*, 16, hangs her baby’s clothes at their home in a refugee settlement in western Uganda.

Lydia*, 16, hangs her baby’s clothes at their home in a refugee settlement in western Uganda. February 19, 2020. Photographer: Esther Ruth Mbabazi

“On a typical day I wake up in the morning and cook porridge,” says 16-year-old Lydia*. “I wash dishes and organise the house. I wash the baby’s clothes and in the evening I prepare and cook supper.”  

In the DRC, Lydia lived with her mother and says she “loved school”. But one day, when she was 15 years old, she got home from school to find her mother missing. While searching for her, Lydia ran into a group of rebels, two of whom attacked and raped her. She later discovered she was pregnant and now has a son, Bintu*.  
 
They live with her aunt in Uganda. More than 73,000 refugees have fled to Uganda from DRC to-date as a result of armed conflict, including nearly 2,800 unaccompanied or separated children affected by war

Esther Ruth Mbabasi photographs across the African continent and recalls spending the day with Lydia: "We saw her go about her daily life. The image wasn't set up, as we went with her to the waterpoint where she hand-washed and came back to her home to hang the laundry.  

“Patterns and flowers are a very common experience in most parts of Africa, and this colourful bed sheet being blown by the wind made for an interesting framing angle. During this shoot, part of the brief was that Lydia also made a portrait of me. When we asked her this, she was so surprised and excited – I still remember her quiet and humble smile.” 

Hana*, 14, and her case worker on a beach where she likes to go and write, in Gaza, Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Hana*, 14, and her case worker on a beach where she likes to go and write, in Gaza, Occupied Palestinian Territory. January 25, 2020. Photographer: Alessandra Sanguinetti

An airstrike on her family home buried Hana*, then just eight, in rubble for hours and left her unconscious for more than a week. She woke up in hospital to learn that her mother and four young brothers had been killed that night.

But the enormity of her loss has not crushed Hana, now 14. Her resistance takes the form of poetry. She writes to process her grief, going to the beach for inspiration.  

“When you write poems, you express your feelings and emotions within you,” she explains. It is part of her recovery, complementing the support we give her for severe insomnia, flashbacks and PTSD as a result of her trauma of war.

One of Hana’s poems ends: “I see the real suffering, I taste the flavour of freedom, I feel our forgotten pain, I imagine an amazing life, I fear a real catastrophe, I remember my mother and brothers, the light of my eyes, I miss a blissful life.”  

Hana regularly enters poetry competitions, is top of her class at school, finds hope in the power of education and dreams of becoming a doctor to help the people of Gaza. 

Olha*, six, alongside a photo she has taken of the sky, in her town on the frontline of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Olha*, six, alongside a photo she has taken of the sky, in her town on the frontline of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. November 4, 2020. Photographer: Oksana Parafeniuk

When six-year-old Olha* was just three, she and her best friend picked up a mine in the street thinking it was a whistle. It detonated in her friend’s hand, showering Olha in shrapnel. She was rushed to hospital, where doctors saved her life, but she has been left with lifelong injuries. Around 50 shell fragments remain inside her and she has to use a colostomy bag.

Olha lives with her mother and sister in a town on the frontline of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.  

The conflict has been raging since 2014, directly impacting more than 400,000 children, who are exposed to daily risks such as shelling, mines, violence, neglect and psychological distress, as they grow up in the shadow of war

Olha dreams of being many things when she grows up – a dancer, a cook, a police officer and a doctor. She visits our community centre in the town where she takes part in the education and social activities. 

Ukrainian photographer Oksana Parafeniuk spent the day with Olha at her school: “While being so young, Olha behaved very naturally in front of my camera. After some time, we sat down to do a little interview, and a convoy of huge military vehicles drove right past the school windows. Olha said that tanks often drive in front of her home.  

“When we finished talking, I decided to take a few more portraits with a white curtain in the nurse’s cabinet as a background, which at that point was beautifully lit by the sunlight.” 

Kerry, her son Lincoln, 11, and daughter Isha, seven, outside their home in Sheffield, UK.

Kerry, her son Lincoln, 11, and daughter Isha, seven, outside their home in Sheffield, UK. May 20, 2020. Photographer: Hanna Adcock

The incredible way children cope has been a recurring source of hope during the coronavirus crisis. “Resilience is the thing I've learned from my children the most,” said single mum Kerry, two months into lockdown in Sheffield. “They have just got on and embraced this situation.” 

Like other children, Isha, 7, and Lincoln, 11, have struggled with being out of school and separated from their friends. But the children have found some ingenious ways to keep those friendships alive. 

Kerry explains: “Isha has got a friend who she video calls every day for a couple of hours, and what they do is they get their dolls and they play! They each put the phone down on the floor, they set the dolls up and they play via video call.” 

Lincoln has reached out to other people too, writing an inspirational poem for us about life under lockdown. It ends: “Don’t give up hope, the end is in sight, If we all stick together, we’ll all win this fight.”  
 
It’s a sentiment his sister echoes in her own message of hope: “Better days will come – keep smiling.” 

Niamh, five, in the window of her home in Sheffield, UK, during lockdown.

Niamh, five, in the window of her home in Sheffield, UK, during lockdown. May 21, 2020. Photographer: Hanna Adcock

“We have to stay in the house, we can't go near people, and we always go for walks and do exercise,” explains seven-year-old Jensen. He and his sister Niamh, five  – who Jensen describes as "a bit naughty… she's like a baby elephant” – were used to going out and spending time with their grandparents. So lockdown in Sheffield has been tough.  

“It has been quite stressful at times, the children are really getting frustrated,” said their mum Charlie* in May. “At first, when lockdown happened, they were doing the school work religiously. Now they're just getting really fed up with it.” 

Financially, lockdown has hit the family hard too – Charlie usually works in a nursery. “My wages have been cut. I think I'm down about £200 a month. Weekly shops have been cut down.” 

Lockdown restrictions jeopardised children’s learning and thousands of new families were pushed to the brink of poverty. 

With those on lower incomes being more likely to lose their jobs or be furloughed, many parents had to choose between paying the bills or feeding their children. We launched an Emergency Grant for the worst affected families. 

José*, 11, (centre) Eréndira*, eight (L), Elena*, six, (R) with hygiene kits delivered by Save the Children in a shelter in Mexico.

José*, 11, (centre) Eréndira*, eight (L), Elena*, six, (R) with hygiene kits delivered by Save the Children in a shelter in Mexico. March 26, 2020. Credit: Save the Children Mexico

Eréndira*, 8, came from Honduras with her mother and two sisters. Along the way, they joined their aunts and cousins, all of them looking for the American dream. They have been in a shelter for three months, while they seek political asylum in the United States.

“Our teams on the ground are seeing everyday what the impact is on children. We met 6-year-old Dani, who has not been to pre-school for over two months now,” said Maripina Menendez, CEO of Save the Children Mexico. “His mother and father became unemployed due to the COVID-19 quarantine and as a result, her family struggles to put food on the table, which affects not only the physical health of the children, but also their mental well-being. Children in Mexico are out of school, hungry and many of them are scared.”

“This story can be multiplied millions of times – this is the number of people in Mexico who work in the informal sector of the economy, which has been one of the most affected by the crisis. Not only Mexico, but the world needs to come together to fight this pandemic for the most vulnerable.”

Hygiene kits and PPE being distributed to Langata Health Centre in Kenya, as part of Save the Children’s response to COVID-19.

Hygiene kits and PPE being distributed to Langata Health Centre in Kenya, as part of Save the Children’s response to COVID-19. April 29, 2020. Photographer: Mark Wahwai

As part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Kenya, we worked to support health facilities and communities to slow the outbreak. Staff and volunteers provided handwashing stations, soap, masks. This is what photographer Mark Wahwai remembers from the day this picture was taken: 

“It was a cloudy afternoon on 29th April at Revival Hospital in Kibera. COVID-19 has been a rollercoaster – almost like a bad dream that we all seem to be in. The adverse effects of major job loss, deaths all around us... the adverse effects it has had in the health sector – can only be imagined.  

“It was my pleasure to accompany the Save the Children Kenya team to Revival Hospital in Kibera, one of the informal settlements in Kenya. With narrow streets with a plethora of people and businesses by the roadside, it was a challenge to maneuver through. 

“My picture shows some of the staff receiving and using the equipment received from Save the Children staff in Kenya. It’s because of this generous act that the healthcare workers can feel protected and safe. Safety has been our word this 2020. Wash Your hands! Sanitize! and STAY SAFE!!” 

Amy holds her son Ethan, three, inside their home in Cardiff, Wales.

Amy holds her son Ethan, three, inside their home in Cardiff, Wales. May 13, 2020. Photographer: Hanna Adcock

Like many other parents, Amy has been struggling to keep her three-year-old son Ethan stimulated during lockdowns this year. Ethan has developmental issues and his family describe him as ‘hyperactive’ and in need of constant entertainment. 

Being virtually housebound and unable to visit nursery or play with friends therefore took quite a toll. “We’re just running after Ethan because he doesn’t get any exercise outside,” Amy said in May. “He’s getting frustrated all the time and he can’t tell me why, because he’s only three, so it’s hard for him to express his feelings. He doesn’t understand at all…” 

The mother and son, who live in Cardiff, Wales, with Amy’s sister Annie, 21, and their mum Yvonne, were recipients of our emergency grant. “We had some toys from Save the Children, which really helped,” says Amy. “He got a wooden puzzle, he got some bath toys because he loves water, and he got some playdough, like a dinosaur that squirts the playdough out, he loves that, that can keep him entertained for hours! All the toys and the books – it helped loads.”

Rebecca*, takes part in a Save the Children training for Hygiene Promoters in Kapoeta, South Sudan.

Rebecca*, takes part in a Save the Children training for Hygiene Promoters in Kapoeta, South Sudan. September 18, 2020. Photographer: Tito Justin

“I work in the community and go from house to house to educate people on preventing the spread of COVID-19. I tell people to maintain social distancing, avoid crowded places and wear face masks. I also educate people to stay at home if they have signs and symptoms.”

Rebecca* is one of the army of healthcare heroes helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a community-based health worker, she has been carrying out vital education work across Kapoeta, South Sudan, from distributing soap to giving hand-washing demonstrations.  
 
In South Sudan, we will directly reach over 275,000 people across four counties of the Eastern Equatoria State by working with community-based distributors and health promoters to raise awareness of COVID-19 risks, mitigations and symptoms. 

“I am a mother so I am very passionate about educating other mothers, children and families on the importance of handwashing,” says Rebecca. 

Abdul*, nine, processing sheep wool for carpet weaving in the courtyard of his home in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.

Abdul*, nine, processing sheep wool for carpet weaving in the courtyard of his home in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan. October 31, 2020. Photographer: Jim Huylebroek.

After his home was destroyed, nine-year-old Abdul* and his family fled for Mazar province, Afghanistan. Life here is safer, but work is scarce and there is little food to go around, so Abdul often goes to bed hungry.  
 
Missing school and his friends, Abdul has dreamt of continuing his education so he can one day become a doctor. He is now enrolled in a programme that helps children who have been displaced by conflict catch up on missed schooling.  
 
Afghanistan is statistically the deadliest conflict for children. Almost 1,900 have been killed or injured just this year and close to one third of all civilian casualties are children. 

Photojournalist Jim Huylebroek remembers his day with Abdul. “We were interviewing him in a room with mud walls and plastic sheets covering the windows, making for a beautifully soft natural light. It was only when we went outside into the bright daylight and Abdul joined his aunt to process wool used for carpet weaving that I noticed his hands.  
 
“Although Abdul was only nine, they looked like they belonged to an old man who had spent his entire life performing manual labour. The harshness of life for people, whose life is uprooted because of a conflict they have absolutely nothing to do with, sometimes goes beyond anyone’s imagination.” 

Children play with toys at a Save the Children pop-up tent facility in Ghabi district of Beirut.

Children play with toys at a Save the Children pop-up tent facility in Ghabi district of Beirut. August 13, 2020. Photographer: Tom Nicholson

On August 4, 2020 a massive explosion ripped through Beirut’s port, killing 190 people, injuring thousands more and leaving 100,000 children without a home. The city was covered in ashes, people’s lives and dreams shattered in a matter of moments. It was estimated that more than 85,000 children had their schools extensively damaged by the explosion.

Spaces were opened for children to play and receive support. “I listened to children and adults recall that ill-fated moment,” says Baraa Shkeir, from Save the Children Lebanon. “In a space reserved for children’s laughter and squealing, only few were heard. Parents fear for their precious ones’ mental and physical wellbeing, and the predominant fear for their future.”

Photographer Tom Nicholson remembers: “The advice for the public to isolate due to the coronavirus pandemic, plus the trauma so many families were experiencing after the explosion, meant that people were often staying at home, and there was a lack of the normal hustle and bustle you’d expect in the area.

But the sight of activity and a bag of colourful toys interested a few passers-by.  

The first three children started unpacking the toy box before the play area was even set up. First out were hula hoops, spinning around and rolling them between each other. I thought it would make a nice image trying to frame the children within the circle shape, but in practice it proved fairly difficult because they were hula hoop pros, and were spinning so fast I could hardly see them, let alone take a photo. 

After a few shocking days of walking around the areas damaged by the explosion and talking to people affected, it was lovely to see that children could bring fun, smiles and energy to the most difficult of circumstances.”

Amir*, ten, and his grandmother Dilda*, 58, in a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Amir*, ten, and his grandmother Dilda*, 58, in a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. August 12, 2020. Photographer: Sonali Chakma

“I cry a little when I go to sleep now,” says ten-year-old Amir*. “Because when I remember my past, I panic. But now I don’t cry like before. I sleep next to my grandmother and she cuddles me when we sleep.”  

Amir* lives with his grandmother, Dilda*, in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This year the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many of the resources at the camp which had been helping Amir, like our Child Friendly Space (CFS) where he could play with other children. 

August 2020 marked three years since 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar in the wake of brutal violence which the UN described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Half a million Rohingya refugee children remain stuck in camps in Cox’s Bazar facing serious risks including child marriage, neglect and trafficking – and a pandemic.  

Sonali Chakma photographed Amir during the camp’s lockdown: “He is polite and shy but knew how important it was to let people know about how his life was affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Amir talked about how much he misses going to CFS and playing with his friends. 
 
“Amir wanted Dilda to sit beside him. I was taking a moment to reframe them. Dilda was trying to make him comfortable in front of the camera and he started smiling at me. That moment was the sweetest of all.” 

Cathryn Giles, Transition Inclusion Worker for The City of Cardiff Council and a referral partner for Save The Children, in her home in Cardiff.

Cathryn Giles, Transition Inclusion Worker for The City of Cardiff Council and a referral partner for Save The Children, in her home in Cardiff. May 18, 2020. Photographer: Hanna Adcock

Cathryn Giles works with children who have additional learning needs, and referred families to our Emergency Grant this year. When the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown hit, Cathryn thought Amy and her son Ethan could use the extra support. “She [Amy] has to work hard to be able to get things for her son. So I thought it would just give them a bit of breathing space.

“I knew that she'd be struggling to know how to help him and support him in his day-to-day life… because he's going to get bored being stuck in the house for so long and not understanding why you can't leave.” 

Hanna Adcock photographed Cathryn at her home in Wales, maintaining social distance from the garden: “Her new workplace was this table by the window at the side of her house. It was a tricky location, so there was balancing involved trying to battle the reflections. I’ve learnt a lot about windows in lockdown!

Cathryn would normally have lots of face-to-face contact with her families and lockdown completely changed her job. She was so passionate and knowledgeable and her connections to her families were clearly strong. Her first thought when lockdown happened was how it would affect the families she works with.” 

Nurse Mary Muisyo Syethii at home in London before flying to Bangladesh as part of Save the Children's COVID-19 response.

Nurse Mary Muisyo Syethii at home in London before flying to Bangladesh as part of Save the Children's COVID-19 response. May 6, 2020. Photographer: Hanna Adcock

“COVID-19 is not an emergency like any other we’ve seen in our lifetime,” says nurse Mary Muisyo Syethii. “It has affected all of us – young, old, girls and boys – and that has made the world have this wake-up call knowing that no one is special, and no one cannot be affected.”

We deployed our Emergency Health Unit to support the coronavirus response in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh earlier this year. The unit is staffed by experts in controlling infectious diseases, with extensive experience responding to deadly outbreaks, such as Ebola, yellow fever, cholera and measles.

Mary was one of the nurses at work in the COVID-19 isolation and treatment centre in Cox’s Bazar, where Rohingya refugees live in densely packed camps in the largest refugee settlement in the world. Social distancing and isolation are virtually impossible, while even simple hygiene practices, such as regular hand washing, are difficult due to the lack of regular clean water.

“At Save the Children we also have a very big responsibility to make sure that the role that we are mandated to do – the role of taking care of these children – continues,” says Mary. 

Victoire*, ten, at school in Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Victoire*, ten, at school in Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. November 10, 2020. Photographer: Hugh Kinsella Cunningham

After armed groups attacked her village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 10-year-old Victoire* and her family walked for miles to find safety, crossing treacherous rivers and seeing many people who’d been killed along their way. 

When they finally arrived at a displacement camp, they had nothing but the clothes on their backs. They were thankful to be given food to eat, but they were still hungry. Victoire hopes that one day the war will end so that they can safely return to their village. 

“In the village, my father could buy us everything we needed to study well,” says Victoire, who is now part of a programme that helps displaced children to return to school and catch up on missed schooling. 

Hugh Kinsella Cunningham took this photo at the school just outside a camp. “Interviews often revealed heartbreaking details about family separations, with children, parents and siblings losing each other in the chaos immediately after an attack,” he says.  

“The children from this camp all attending and travelling together to their lessons each day seemed an important detail. With the evening sun providing a burst of colour, the classroom is removed from the context and could be anywhere in Congo; an energetic but tranquil space for the children to be with their friends and move on from what they have seen of the conflict.” 

Sisters Serena, 13, and Sam, ten, on a Peabody Estate in London, UK.

Sisters Serena, 13, and Sam, ten, on a Peabody Estate in London, UK. October 27, 2020. Photographer: Misan Harriman

“We’re sharing our world, so we just have to get along with each other and put the differences behind us. We’re all the same and we’re special in one way. You’re special because you can either run fast or whatever. I’m special because I’m Black and I can achieve anything – so can you.” 

Ten-year-old Sam and her older sister, Serena, were photographed in London, UK, by Misan Harriman – who made waves this year with his pictures of the Black Lives Matter protest and his cover of British Vogue – the first by a Black man.  

Serena is hopeful we’ll build a new, kinder normal from 2021 – in which young people aren’t judged according to how they look. “I think kids should grow up to be confident as they are, and they should stay strong,” she says.

Misan was bowled over by the talent he saw when photographing the young girls’ sewing club

“All of them showed their ability to tell stories, their ability to think on their feet, and a lot of emotion and honesty through the designs that they have done and I've been moved by all of them. And given hope just by knowing that that level of creativity, especially after a year like this, still exists. 

For young children of colour, as we've had this extraordinary year – know that you more than matter.”

Photographs taken in lockdown by children and families around the world.

Photographs taken in lockdown by children and families around the world. 2020.

As the world locked down, we had to look at alternative ways to gather images and hear from children. For a global poem project, Save the Children staff all around the world identified young people to respond to prompts and questions about how the pandemic had affected their lives – through words, photos and film clips.

As part of the brief, each child was asked to write a poem about life during lockdown, which we combined for a film narrated by Lincoln (who wrote his poem about lockdown in Sheffield). This composite image of the children holding their poems shows the breadth of the contributions, from conflict-affected Borno state in north-east Nigeria, to Yemen, Peru and Syria. 

Viewed on its own, each portrait of a child taken by a family member or themselves, conveys the isolation many children have felt this year, unable to meet with friends and loved ones – or go to school. But combined, here and in the video, they remind us of the unifying power of children’s voices and, despite everything, the universality of hope. 

*Names changed to protect their identities

 

In the UK and around the world we make sure children are safe and healthy. We support them to learn, grow and become who they want to be. By choosing to donate to Save the Children you can join us in helping every child to reach their full potential. You can find out more about what we do here.

How you can help