London, Jan.23 : Former England football ace David Beckham has appealed to the world not to turn a blind eye to "shocking" child mortality rates in developing nations.
Issuing the appeal after returning from a visit to Sierra Leone, a poverty-stricken West African country, the England midfielder said tens of thousands of young children were dying every day across the world, mostly from preventable conditions.
"We can't turn a blind eye to the tens of thousands of young children who die every day in the developing world mostly from causes that are preventable," The Sun quoted Beckham, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador to Sierra Leone, as saying while commenting on a country where more than a quarter of children die before their fifth birthday.
"Saving these children's lives is a top priority for Unicef and as an ambassador I hope I can help to draw attention to this issue across the world," he said.
During his four-day visit, Beckham spent time at a health clinic learning about the most common causes of these deaths, such as malaria, diarrhoea, malnutrition and vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and TB.
He joined two health workers as they travelled into a local community to vaccinate children unable to attend the clinic.
At a feeding centre for severely malnourished children he saw babies who had survived on water because their mothers were undernourished and unable to breastfeed.
UNICEF figures have shown that more than 26,000 children under the age of five years old die every day around the world, mostly from preventable causes and nearly always in the developing world.
In a UNICEF report published Tuesday- The State of the World's Children (SOWC) 2008 - figures show that, in Sierra Leone, 27 per cent of children die before reaching their fifth birthday, the highest number in the world.
The organisation said there remained a "long way" to go to achieve the Millennium development goal on child survival which would mean lowering the number of under-five deaths from 9.7 million to less than five million by 2015.