Feature: 3,758 backpacks, 3,758 lives lost: UNICEF "graveyard" installation highlights scale of child deaths in conflict

Source: Xinhua| 2019-09-12 05:05:31|Editor: yan
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UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- A total of 3,758 blue school backpacks have been lined up like gravestones at the UN headquarters to show the devastating scale of child deaths in conflict zones in 2018.

The haunting display by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on a UN lawn will run through Thursday, with each "gravestone" representing a loss of a young life to conflict.

As the 74th session of the UN General Assembly approaches, the installation aims to send a message to world leaders as children in many parts of the world are returning to school, the agency said on its website.

"UNICEF backpacks have always been a symbol of hope and childhood possibility," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a news release. Once the "graveyard" is taken down, the backpacks will continue on their journey to support children's education.

According to the latest Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, more than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in conflict zones in 2018.

UNICEF estimates that in a quarter of these incidences, children lost their lives.

The toll represents the highest number since the United Nations started monitoring and reporting this violation in 2005, although these are only verified incidents. The actual numbers are likely to be much higher.

Furthermore, the report said the 12,000 deaths and injuries were among more than 24,000 "grave violations" against children verified by the United Nations, including the recruitment and use of youngsters by combatants, sexual violence, abductions, and attacks on schools and hospitals.

While violations by armed groups remained steady, the report noted there was "an alarming increase" in the number of violations by government and international forces compared to 2017.

In ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and many more, children pay the heaviest price of war, UNICEF noted on its website.

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, it said.

Meanwhile, a UNICEF report released last September said one in three children and young people between five and 17 years old living in countries affected by conflict or disaster, about 104 million, are not in school.

The report noted one in five young people aged 15-17 years old living in countries affected by conflict or disaster have never entered any school, and two in five have never completed primary school.

As world leaders gather at the General Assembly later this month, they will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The "graveyard" installation "should remind them of the stakes," Fore said.

"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," she said.

The UNICEF chief stressed "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."