3,758 school backpacks laid at the United Nations show the grave scale of child deaths in conflict in 2018

As children in many parts of the world return to school, UNICEF is calling for greater protection of children living in conflict

09 September 2019
UNICEF installation unveiled at the United Nations headquarters shows the grave scale of child deaths in conflict in 2018.
UNICEF/UN0341974
UNICEF installation unveiled at the United Nations headquarters shows the grave scale of child deaths in conflict in 2018.

NEW YORK, 8 September 2019 – A UNICEF installation to show the devastating scale of child deaths in conflict zones in 2018 was unveiled today at the United Nations in New York. The haunting display features 3,758 backpacks in rows reminiscent of a graveyard, each one representing a senseless loss of a young life to conflict.

The installation, which will run through 10 September, is a message to world leaders as children in many parts of the world are returning back to school, and just days ahead of the annual United Nations General Assembly. Once the installation is taken down, the backpacks will continue on their journey to support children’s education.

“UNICEF backpacks have always been a symbol of hope and childhood possibility,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

“In just two weeks, world leaders gathering at the UN General Assembly will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This installation should remind them of the stakes.”

According to the 2019 Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, more than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in conflict zones last year – the highest number since the United Nations started monitoring and reporting this grave violation. These are only verified incidents – the actual numbers are likely to be much higher. UNICEF estimates that in a quarter of these incidences, children lost their lives.

In ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and many more, children pay the heaviest price of war. Continued, widespread use of explosive weapons such as airstrikes, landmines, mortars, improvised explosive devices, rocket attacks, cluster munitions, artillery shelling cause the vast majority of child casualties in armed conflict.

“As many children go back to school this week, we are drawing attention to the thousands of children killed in conflict zones and whose tragic loss will forever be felt in their homes, classrooms and communities around the world,” said Fore. “The remarkable gains made for children in the last 30 years clearly show what we can do if we harness the political will to put children first.” 

3,758 school backpacks laid at the UN

3,758 school backpacks laid at the United Nations show the scale of child deaths in conflict. Each one represents the senseless loss of a young life - but also the hope and possibility of education. World leaders must act now to #ENDviolence and protect #ChildrenUnderAttack.

Posted by UNICEF on Sunday, September 8, 2019

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Notes to editors

Download photos and broadcast quality b-roll here.

Photos of the installation are available here.

Learn more about UNICEF’s #ENDviolence global campaign here.

UNICEF and its partners work in conflict zones to provide life-saving aid and long-term solutions to children and families caught in the crossfires, find out more here.  

Media Contacts

Georgina Thompson

UNICEF HQ

Tel: Tel: +1 917 238 1559

Multimedia content

UNICEF installation highlighting the grave scale of child deaths in conflict during 2018 on the North Lawn at the United Nations Headquarters
UNICEF installation highlighting the grave scale of child deaths in conflict during 2018 on the North Lawn at the United Nations Headquarters

Photos and b-roll available

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/vietnam

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