Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi, holder of the new record for most goals in a calendar year, called on Monday for action to end infant mortality.
The FC Barcelona striker made the appeal in a video for the U.N. Children’s Fund.
Messi, who this year became a father for the first time, said in the Unicef video that while the number of infant deaths fell from nearly 12 million in 1990 to around 6.9 million last year, “those boys and girls did not have to die, but they died.”
Despite advances, some 19,000 children worldwide under 5 die every day from preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition, Unicef pointed out.
Widely expected to receive his fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or as the world’s top soccer player, Messi became a goodwill ambassador for Unicef in March 2010 and has become an outspoken advocate for the most vulnerable children.