Beckham visits typhoon-devastated Philippine city
TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) — David Beckham visited the storm-devastated Philippine city of Tacloban on Thursday as part of UNICEF’s relief efforts.
The central city is still struggling to deal with the impact of super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck on Nov. 8, killing more than 6,200 people and leaving tens of thousands of survivors still homeless.
Beckham was welcomed Thursday by hundreds who have been living in United Nations-provided tents outside a stadium.
Zafrin Chowdhury, spokeswoman for the UNICEF office in Manila, said Beckham was touched by the typhoon’s impact and wanted to meet displaced children and their families.
Beckham exchanged high-fives and posed for pictures with children inside a large white tent used as a classroom. Some showed him their art works.
He removed his shoes on entering a tent where a family has been living, stroking a sleeping infant’s hands as he spoke with family members. Officials and UNICEF staff did not say what he and the family members talked about during his 30-minute stay.
It’s Beckham’s second trip to the Philippines as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. He toured a shelter for former street children in Manila during his first visit in 2011 and also played an exhibition game with the Philippine national football team.
“He felt very touched by what happened and that he wanted to come back, not do anything else — no meeting, no media — just to focus on children and meet them, encourage them and see for himself the situation,” Chowdhury said.
Beckham also was scheduled to visit a warehouse of the World Food Program in nearby Palo town, which was also heavily devastated.
The retired football icon and his wife, Victoria, had donated some of their best designer clothes and shoes to raise funds for the typhoon victims.
The typhoon displaced more than 4 million in more than 40 provinces in the central Philippines. At least 1,700 are still missing.
Beckham’s visit followed separate trips to Tacloban in December by teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, U.S. State Secretary John Kerry, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop.
Associated Press writers Jim Gomez and Oliver Teves contributed to this report from Manila.