In an emotional address, David Beckham urged world leaders to do more to protect children from war, poverty and disease. The British football star, who was speaking at the United Nations in New York, had to fight back tears as he spoke of the plight of children he has personally met who have suffered the devastating effects of natural disasters and war.

"It breaks my heart to see the struggles that children and young people across the world face every day," he said. "I've met children and mothers in South Africa living with HIV, I've met children living in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and I've met children who have experienced violence in Cambodia.

"Whatever challenges they face, they all share the same hope for a better future - and we have an opportunity this year... to make that hope real for millions of children. I want a world where children can grow up safe from war, violence, poverty and preventable disease - a world where every child has a fair chance."

Recounting the story of a young child named Viana, who was swept out of her father's arms and drowned after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, a visibly moved Beckham fought back tears as he admitted that the experience 'really affected me. That story will never leave me" he added.

He recalled meeting her family on a trip to the Philippines in his role as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

His voice cracking with emotion, the 40-year-old explained the tragic events of that night. He said: "On the night the typhoon hit the family were on their roof trying to protect themselves. The mother, tired, scared, exhausted, said to the father, can you please take Viana, so the father did. He has Venus and Viana in his arms. Unfortunately the father was knocked off the roof by one of the waves. He woke up six hours later holding one of the girls (Venus).

"A day and a half later unfortunately Viana was found face down and unfortunately she had died. This was one of the most devastating stories I heard'.

Concluding his speech at the launch of Voices of Youth, a global community of youth bloggers giving young people the opportunity to learn about development issues, he made the poignant statement: "I want a world where children can grow up safe from war, violence, poverty and preventable disease – don't you?"

Speaking to Sky News Beckham also alluded to the recent images of toddler Aylan Kurdi that sent shockwaves around the world and turned the world's attention to the refugee crisis.

"The images we all saw (of the body of a young boy washed ashore in Turkey)... how powerful those images are. That can't happen. As a parent to be in a situation where you're pressurised that much, to put your children in a life or death situation - that can't be good," he said.

Backing a UN call for Europe to admit more Syrian refugees, he added: "Without a doubt. There's no-one in the world who wants to see what's going on, children lying in sand on the beach losing their lives. These things have to be changed. It's up to world leaders, it's up to politicians, it's up to countries to come together to really help a situation like this."

Earlier he unveiled a digital installation at the UN that delivers messages from children and young people around the globe directly to world leaders.

The former England star has been a UNICEF Ambassador for 10 years and has launched his own initiative 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund. Beckham started supporting the humanitarian organisation in 2005 focusing on using sport to enhance development and change children's lives. He helped launch Unicef's Philippines Typhoon children's appeal, which raised £5.4m in the UK alone.

He also collaborated with Robbie Williams in 2014 for the launch of Unicef's Children in Danger campaign which aims to protect children from violence, disease, hunger and the chaos of war and disaster.

David Beckham and Unicef launch children protection fund IBTimes UK