I’m delighted to welcome you all here to Downing Street today for this very special gathering.
Soccer Aid combines the excellent work of UNICEF with the generosity of the British people matched by the British government.
And together we save lives and create new opportunities for thousands of children across some of the poorest parts of the world.
And if you want to know what that can really mean – just ask young UNICEF reporter Kendra Diston who is here with us today.
She flew out to Lesotho and met Alice and Lindi – two girls like her, who thanks to the work of UNICEF and UK Aid, no longer have to walk for an hour to get water; and now have toilets in their local school.
Over the last 12 years, UNICEF’s Soccer Aid has raised £24 million to support vulnerable children around the world.
So I am delighted that Soccer Aid is back this year – and I want to start by saying a huge thank you to everyone who is responsible for making that possible.
Thank you to the UNICEF team, the volunteers, advocates and ambassadors – including all of you here today - who have made this brilliant idea of a football match to improve children’s lives one of the most iconic sports fundraising events in the world today.
Thank you also to the school children who have taken part in the first ever Playground Challenge - and especially to the pupils of Lord Admiral Nelson School who are here demonstrating their own Challenge today and being joined by one or two of the celebrities in doing that.
Thank you to those who have come together to support the first ever Parliamentary Soccer Aid match this morning.
And thank you – above all – to the British public for their extraordinary generosity and determination to support children around the world who are in need.
That generosity says something very special about our country; about who we are as a people and what we stand for.
And I think it is something we should celebrate with great pride.
As the UK government, I believe that when it comes to our aid budget - our job is clear.
To honour the promises that we have made to the poorest in the world.
To ensure that every penny we spend is spent well - and in ways that support the wishes of the British people.
That is why the UK Aid Match scheme is such an important component of our aid budget.
Because the British people choose where they want to spend their money – and we then double every pound that they donate up to a given limit.
In the last year alone we have doubled the impact of 25 different charitable appeals, raising a total of more than £66 million for life-changing projects in 20 different countries around the world.
And I’m delighted that we have representatives from a number of those projects here with us this evening.
Initiatives such as Farm Africa which is supporting thousands of young people in rural areas of Kenya to develop invaluable skills in farming…
…to World Child Cancer UK - which is transforming the support for children with cancer in Ghana.
From projects led by WaterAid which are improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene in Mozambique and Sierra Leone…
…to the completion of the SightSavers’ campaign to provide a million cataract operations in Africa and Asia.
All of these projects and more are quite literally changing lives.
And I am delighted that, once again, Soccer Aid will be a headline partner of our Aid Match programme in 2018.
As a result, the UK government will match all donations to Soccer Aid this year, up to a total of £5 million.
And we will invest this money in supporting as many as 178,000 women and children under 5 who are at risk of death in Eswatini and Lesotho.
For despite the progress we have made on maternal health and child mortality, just today alone 830 mothers will have died somewhere across the world.
7,000 babies will have been stillborn.
7,000 will die in the first month of life, and another 7,000 will die before they are five.
In the vast majority of cases these deaths every day are preventable.
So by supporting Soccer Aid this year, we can together work to save lives.
Together we can work to give pregnant women and new-born children access to quality, integrated maternal and neonatal care, HIV services and improved nutrition.
And together we can ensure that UK aid remains a badge of hope for millions across the world.
So thank you for coming together for Soccer Aid 2018.
I wish you all a hugely successful night at Old Trafford on Sunday.
And whatever the score on the pitch, let us deliver the result that will really matter and that is the biggest possible contribution to saving and transforming the lives of vulnerable children across the world today.