Backpack graveyard outside United Nations brings attention to child deaths

UNICEF set up the display to bring attention to the thousands of children who died in conflict zones in 2018.

More than 3,700 backpacks were set up to look like gravestones next to the United Nations on Sunday, in a striking installation meant to bring attention to child deaths around the world.

The 3,758 backpacks, placed on the north lawn outside the UN on Manhattan’s East Side, represent the thousands of children who have died in conflict zones in 2018, said UNICEF, which set up the display.

More than 12,000 children were killed or maimed last year in conflict zones, such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a UN report released in July. UNICEF estimates that a quarter of these incidences were deaths. 

“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,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.

Fore said the display is a message to world leaders. 

“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,” she said. “This installation should remind them of the stakes.”

The installation will be up through Tuesday, UNICEF said.

Nicole Brown