The former footballer David Beckham and the children’s charity Unicef have launched a new project to raise millions of pounds to protect children around the world from danger.
The initiative, 7: The David Beckham Unicef Fund, marks Beckham’s tenth year as a Unicef goodwill ambassador. Through ‘7’ – named after the number Beckham had on his Manchester United and England shirts – Beckham will use his global voice, influence and connections to raise money for the fund, the charity said.
Unicef hopes that the project will raise millions of pounds, a spokeswoman for the charity said, and encourage world leaders to create lasting change for children. The spokeswoman said the initiative did not have a specific fundraising target.
The charity said it had identified key places in seven world regions where urgent funding was required to help save and change children’s lives in the next three years, whether in education, water and sanitation, health care or social protection.
Some are programmes in towns and villages, some are nationwide programmes across a whole country and some across a whole region.
The charity said that funds could provide support such as child protection services in El Salvador, water pumps in Burkina Faso and support to breastfeeding mothers in Papua New Guinea.
Beckham said in a statement that since retiring from professional football he had more time to help children. "This is me stepping up my support, because I can, because I want to, because the outcome will help change the lives of millions of children," he said. "Everything I have done – my football career, my family – has led to this point. This is the moment for me to do what I can to help children in every corner of the world. This is something I want my own children to be proud of.
"Over the coming years I am going to work with Unicef to raise millions and speak out for children all over the world. I am planning numerous fundraising initiatives and I also hope to travel much more – meeting children, Unicef staff and world leaders to help raise awareness and increase the pace of change. There are some very exciting plans ahead and I am so proud to be part of this."
According to Unicef, more than 15 million children were exposed to extreme violence in major conflicts last year. Millions more were hit by natural disasters and thousands were left orphaned and out of school as a result of the devastating Ebola epidemic. Beyond emergencies, children were also at serious risk – with 168 million children across the globe engaged in child labour and many others victims of sexual violence, trafficking and female genital mutilation, the charity said.