Voices

More than a million child refugees are struggling to cope

Leading article: Childhood in Britain still leaves much to be desired

Almost exactly two years ago, a Unicef report placed Britain last among 21 developed countries for the well-being and happiness of its children. It was a report that resonated loudly both in the streets of our cities, where there was already widespread concern about under-age drinking and gangs, and in the corridors of power, where Gordon Brown, then still Chancellor, had prided himself on progress in reducing child poverty. The report seemed to confirm that the problems did not exist just in the minds of fearful British adults, but that there was something serious to worry about.

UN provides $5m for Zimbabwe health workers

The U.N. children's fund UNICEF said on Saturday it had set up a $5 million fund to provide salaries for workers in Zimbabwe's ailing health sector.

Most UK toddlers 'cared for out of home'

Majority of mothers go back to work within year of giving birth, Unicef says

Sue Owen: No child should be in low-quality care

Comment

UN forum backs harsh penalties for sex tourists

Tourists who go abroad to abuse children should face the prospect of prosecution in their home countries if they are caught having sex with kids in nations with lax penalties, participants at a UN-backed conference concluded yesterday.

My Week: Jaya Murthy, Unicef Aid Worker

The Unicef aid worker describes the difficulties in getting food and medicine to refugees in Democratic Republic of Congo

My Mentor: Lucy Cotter On Martin Bell

'The funniest piece of advice he gave me was never to marry another journalist'

Giggs humbled by bravery of South Africa's sufferers

Manchester United legend tells Mark Ogden in a Cape Town township that he is eager to use his status to add weight to the continent's fight against HIV virus

Breast vs bottle: the new battleground

Just as the Department of Health is trying to promote breastfeeding, food giant Nestlé, makers of powdered baby milk, is forging links with the Government.

Ethiopia: It costs $5 for a tea, $17 to save a child's life

The contrast was stark: babies and toddlers dying of preventable diseases while guests at a hotel in Addis Ababa tasted the high life. Then the penny dropped and corporate social responsibility began to make a difference. Steve Bloomfield reports from the Ethiopian village of Woreb

The anxiety epidemic: Why are children so unhappy?

Teachers are to take the extraordinary step of calling for an independent Royal Commission to investigate why so many of Britain's children are unhappy.

Fighting Aids: Raped, pregnant, infected with HIV – and happy to help

Jemima Khan meets a remarkable health campaigner

UNICEF Ambassador David Beckham visits Sierra Leone

At first sight, it looks like a celebrity spot-the-ball competition. Is the fellow to the left of David Beckham giving it a header? Is it sailing into the outstretched hand of the chap on the right? Er... no, actually: it's right there in the main picture, looking a bit dusty, down at the bottom.

Splendidly, this is not a competition in a tabloid newspaper, but a picture of David Beckham acting in his capacity as a "goodwill ambassador" for the UN children's organisation, Unicef.

The former England captain is having a kickabout with some residents of Freetown, Sierra Leone, and affecting one of his trademark poses: top off, tattoos on display, expensive designer clobber worn in reassuringly casual fashion (though surely Timberland boots went out with Vanilla Ice).

Becks could be forgiven for feeling like a fish out of water. As one of the best-paid sportsmen in history, he's used to playing in new boots and hi-tech kit on the green, green grass of the biggest and most atmospheric football pitches in the world.

If one were feeling uncharitable, one might say that taking part in a Unicef photo-op is the highest calling a modern celebrity can aspire to. Bob Geldof's done it, Angelina Jolie's done it – even Mrs Beckham's chum Geri Halliwell took a turn around the Third World patting babies.

But here, facts get in the way of weary cynicism. Beckham's four-day tour included a visit to a feeding centre in Makeni in the country's Northern Province, where he was touchingly photographed with Senyo, a five-year-old boy so badly malnourished that he can hardly walk. Makeni has the highest death rate among under-fives in Sierra Leone, which has one of the world's highest infant mortality rates. "In Sierra Leone, one in four children dies before reaching their fifth birthday," Becks said later. "It's tragic, especially when the solutions are simple. Saving these children's lives is a top priority for Unicef and as ambassador I hope I can help to draw attention to this issue."

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