Michael Sheen: Guatemala is the 'worst place to be a child'

Actor and Unicef UK ambassador Michael Sheen. Credit: Unicef

Actor and Unicef UK ambassador Michael Sheen has called for an end to child violence as he visited one of the most dangerous countries in the world to grow up.

Guatemala has the second highest rate of child murder in the world and extremely high levels of violence against children.

Unicef warned many children are unsafe in their schools, homes and communities.

And a recent report revealed the brain activity of children who are victims of violence was similar to soldiers exposed to combat.

Sheen, who got visibly upset during his visit, said: "Just in the first two months of this year, I think something like 850 children have disappeared. That's extraordinary."

Michael visited a centre which was set up following the death of four-year-old Keneth Alba, whose beheaded body was found four days after he disappeared in 2009.

It is thought he was abducted by a woman who planned to sell him but something went wrong and he was later killed.

His death prompted a change in the law and now the Alba Kenneth Centre, named after him, helps organise nationwide searches in conjunction with the authorities when children go missing.

It used to take police 36-72 hours to start a search for a missing child - this has now decreased to 30 minutes since the new law came in in 2012. 2012.

And the number of people being convicted of these crimes and punished with a sentence has increased from 4% in 2010 to 24% in 2012.

But recent statistics show:

  • Every day 40 children are orphaned because of violence

  • A new case of sexual violence against a child is reported every 2 hours

  • Last year 8,000 sexual crimes were reported against children - 22 a day

The Fundacion Sobrevivientes which shows belongings of children who have been murdered. Credit: Unicef

Unicef is calling for a new global target to end violence against children to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals, which will be agreed by world leaders in September this year.

The goals will apply to every country that commits them - including the UK.

To help Unicef end violence against children click here to add your voice.