There is a saying that goes "when you educate a girl, you educate a nation". And research by Unicef indeed shows that investing in girls and empowering them to reach their full potential is critical for overcoming cycles of intergenerational poverty*. Yet today around the world girls and women still face significant barriers to social and economic empowerment.
This week Home Secretary Amber Rudd told MPs that in the coming days and weeks hundreds of unaccompanied refugee children in Calais, many of whom have the right to be with family in the UK, will finally be brought to the UK ahead of the imminent demolition of the camp. After many months of campaigning on this issue at Unicef UK, we are thrilled about the announcement. Children have been languishing in the camp in Calais for far too long, with every day being another day they are alone and in danger. Another day that they could fall prey to traffickers.
Having a child of my own has strengthened my commitment as a Unicef UK Ambassador and one of the reasons I created Andy Murray Live, a new exhibition tennis event, to raise much-needed funds to help support vulnerable children. And when deciding where to put on the event there was one place that felt right, Glasgow. My home town.
We may not be seeing this crisis on the news, but having seen for myself the devastating impact the drought is having on children here in Lesotho, I've been left in no doubt just how desperate the situation has become. The scariest thing is if we don't act now it could become so much worse. We simply cannot turn our backs on these children in their time of need.
Breastfeeding. Although I have spent my entire working life trying to improve care for women who want to breastfeed, I still hesitate to write openly about it. This is because breastfeeding is such a fraught subject in the UK, often viewed as difficult to achieve, and sometimes seen as unnecessary because of a mistaken perception that formula milk is a close second best.
Every child, no matter where they are born, has the right to a healthy start in life, the right to an education and the right to a safe, secure childhood. But around the world, millions of children are being denied these rights, for no other reason than the country, community, the gender or the circumstances into which they are born. We cannot and we must not let this huge injustice continue.
Today the cost of crossing the English Channel has never been higher. Unicef's research estimates that smugglers and traffickers are now charging between £4,000 and £5,500 per person but for unaccompanied children, unable to pay these huge sums of money, this has forced them to take even more significant risks from committing crimes to raise the money to hiding in the back of refrigerated lorries.
I met Sebenele, a bright 14 year-old boy with a big smile, this week during a visit to Swaziland to see how my fund is helping UNICEF to support and protect children living with HIV. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. Twenty-four per cent of children here have lost one or both parents to AIDS and many are themselves now living with HIV. I thought about my own children and how in many ways the things Sebenele enjoys are the same things they do. Yet he told me how he is struggling to continue to take his antiretroviral medicine, which is vital to ensure he stays healthy, because he can't keep the pills down without any food.
Over the years Soccer Aid has raised over £17million for Unicef's work for children in danger. This year, the UK government will match every penny raised through the event, meaning we'll be able to provide even more children like those in Ethiopia suffering from malnutrition with the support they so urgently need.
For the first time in the 70-year history of the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has brought together world leaders and the humanitarian community for the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, with the aim of making bold commitments to reduce the impact of the unprecedented wars and disasters we are seeing today.
In the days following the earthquake, despite the snow and freezing temperature, families were forced to sleep outside, scared to go indoors because of the damage to buildings and the threat of aftershocks. After the earthquakes many families had no choice but to sleep out in the open. The earthquakes not only destroyed their homes and their schools, but left millions of children scared and in danger. They needed shelter; food, water and medical supplies, and also support to deal with the traumatic events they had experienced, and the chance to get back to school as soon as possible.
Since the time when the girls were taken from their school by armed militiamen, the impact of the conflict on children has grown dramatically. Over the past year, 44 children have been used as suicide bombers. In fact, the number of children used in suicide attacks has increased ten-fold over the last year and over 75% of the children involved in the attacks are girls. Nearly one out of every five suicide bombers is a child.