UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham made an emotional journey to the Philippines last week to meet children saved from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan almost 100 days after the super storm landed.
Beckham, 38, helped launch UNICEF’s emergency appeal when the typhoon hit in November, 2013 and today visited some of the worst affected areas of Tacloban, on Leyte Island.
Thousands died in the disaster, and more than 1.7 million children were left homeless. Children affected by Typhoon Haiyan were at risk of getting sick, missing out on schooling and being exploited.
During his two days in the Philippines, Beckham saw UNICEF’s vital emergency work for children, including visiting a child friendly space at one of Tacloban’s major evacuation points and a health centre to understand the importance of vaccinations and medical care for children when disaster strikes. The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador also met children and families whose homes were completely wiped out by the typhoon.
“As a father, it was deeply moving to meet children as young as two who were left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing when sea and storm water swept through their villages during the typhoon,” explained the former footballer, who has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2005. “Some children I spoke to had lost parents or brothers and sisters in incredibly frightening circumstances. It was devastating to hear about.”
Beckham visited Santo Nino School in Tanauan, where he took part in classes helping to distribute exercise books to children and played a game of football amongst the ruins of the original school. Thanks to UNICEF and its partners, some 420,000 children from the worst hit areas are now back in school, in makeshift and tent schools and using learning materials from school-in-a-box, early childhood and recreational kits.
UNICEF is working with the Philippines government, local partners and communities to help them be even better prepared for future crises.
“Children who were caught up in Haiyan are still traumatised by their experience and need ongoing assistance,” said Beckham. “UNICEF delivered life-saving supplies when the typhoon hit and they will now stay as long as they are needed and won’t let children down.”
Across the globe, UNICEF is working round the clock to get aid to children in other emergencies – from Syria to the Central African Republic to South Sudan.
“Here in the Philippines I have seen how public donations can have an incredible effect on children’s lives in an emergency,” explained Beckham. "Right now, millions of children in other parts of the world are in urgent need – whether it’s as a result of the Syria crisis or the conflict in South Sudan.
“Even though some of these crises don’t make the headlines, we should not forget these children in desperate circumstances and I urge the public to do all they can, as they have done incredibly in the past, to help organizations like UNICEF go the extra mile for these kids every day.”