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Federer visits tsunami victims in India

(Keystone)

Roger Federer, the world's top tennis player and a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, has visited India to mark the second anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

On his two-day trip, Federer visited Unicef's tsunami recovery programmes in Cuddalore, in the country's hardest-hit state of Tamil Nadu, including a protection centre for children and orphans.

More than 18,000 people in India, a third of them children, were killed or reported missing by the tsunami on December 26, 2004. In Tamil Nadu alone, 8,000 people were killed and 186 schools destroyed.

"I have spent a lot of time with the children and I think I now know each of them by their first name," Federer said on Friday. "Children are our future, and for that reason I have tried to inspire them."

Federer, who was recently named Swiss Sportsman of the Year, refused to talk about tennis on his first trip as a Goodwill Ambassador.

"I told the children that I would always be there for them. This first visit in India has been fantastic."

Unicef has designed its tsunami programmes to not only restore services but to improve the standards and provide access to those that were lacking or not available to everyone.

In India, that approach has steered programmes in health and nutrition, provided safe drinking water, raised the quality of education, developed policies on child protection, and raised HIV/Aids awareness.

More than 200,000 people around the world lost their lives in the 2004 tsunami. Unicef has been working on tsunami relief and recovery in eight countries since the tsunami struck.

Opportunity

Federer was appointed Unicef Goodwill Ambassador in April 2006. The nine-time Grand Slam champion first teamed up with Unicef two years ago when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck.

After the disaster Federer led several fundraising initiatives including the ATP All-Star Rally for Relief, a unique exhibition tournament with proceeds benefiting Unicef's tsunami-relief programmes.

"It is remarkable how these young people have seized this reconstruction as a opportunity to improve their lives and to strengthen their communities," he said on Friday.

Federer is also the founder of The Roger Federer Foundation, which focuses on disadvantaged children in South Africa.

Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors are active on a national, regional and international level to support projects aimed at improving the lives of children.

The first Goodwill Ambassador was the US actor Danny Kaye in 1954. Current ambassadors include Sir Roger Moore, Jackie Chan, Shakira and Harry Belafonte.

Roger Federer is the first Swiss-born Goodwill Ambassador. English-born Sir Peter Ustinov, who later took Swiss nationality, had been Goodwill Ambassador for more than 35 years when he died in 2004.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Recent UN figures estimate 230,000 people were lost following the tsunami on December 26, 2004, including 187,000 dead and 43,000 missing.
Swiss humanitarian organisations collected some SFr220 million ($180 million) for the entire tsunami action in the Indian Ocean.
Swiss Solidarity collected most from private donors. It is financing 112 projects worth SFr187.9 million.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is contributing SFr35 million (Indonesia: SFr12.5 million; Sri Lanka: SFr16 million).

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Unicef

For 60 years Unicef has been the world's leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.

The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, Unicef supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation and Aids.

Unicef is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

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