Superstar Amitabh Bachchan on Friday became the latest goodwill ambassador of the United Nations' Children's Fund.
"I am extremely pleased to accept this responsibility. I hope that by adding my voice to the cause of children, it will make a difference in the lives of boys and girls here at home and across the region," Bachchan said in New Delhi.
As UNICEF ambassador, Bachchan will periodically speak out on issues critical to the lives of children such as HIV/AIDS, polio eradication and the need for all girls to have an opportunity to go to school, a UNICEF release said.
"Bachchan's tremendous appeal to young people makes him an ideal goodwill ambassador. When he speaks, people from all walks of life, from the youngest to the oldest, listen carefully. Our hope is to leverage his powerful connection with the people of India to make a difference in children's lives, as he has already done for polio," UNICEF Representative in India Maria Calvis said.
Bachchan had contributed significantly to the government's Pulse Polio Immunisation Programme by appearing in a series of award-winning television and radio commercials. These spots played an instrumental role in convincing parents to immunise their children.
A survey of 10,000 respondents conducted in Uttar Pradesh in February 2003 indicated that 67 per cent of the people who brought their children to the polio booth were exposed to the Bachchan spots. Ninety-two per cent cited the spots as having an influence on the decision to get their child immunised.
Only 164 polio cases were reported in India this year, the lowest number ever recorded.
"India is closer than ever to eradicating polio. Let us finish the job and rid our country of this terrible disease forever," Bachchan said.
UNICEF is celebrating a 50-year history of goodwill ambassadors this year. Beginning in 1953 with Danny Kane, UNICEF has collaborated with world-renowned personalities -- including Audrey Hepburn, Roger Moore, Vanessa Redgrave, Susan Sarandon and Harry Belafonte.