Oscar-nominated "Hangover 2" star Liam Neeson has become the first Irish person to be appointed the position of international UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

The Ballymena man has been working with Unicief since 1997. For two decades, from 1997 to 2007, Neeson was the face of the Change for Good partnership between Unicief Ireland and Aer Lingus. The initiative collected unused foreign currency from passengers in the airport and donated the money to services for vulnerable children.

Recently Neeson, a resident of New York City, has been campaigning on both sides of the Atlantic for the "Believe in Zero" campaign. Their aim is to highlight the plight of eight million children who die before reaching their fifth birthday every year.

Unicef executive director Anthony Lake told the Irish Times "Liam Neeson is not only a passionate dramatic actor, he is a deeply compassionate humanitarian actor…Unicef is very lucky that he is choosing to use his time and talent to support the world's most vulnerable children, and we thank him for accepting this new role as Unicef goodwill ambassador."

Neeson said that he was "deeply honored" by the appointment. He said "I am committed to working with Unicef to help children overcome poverty, violence, disease and discrimination across the world."

He continued "One of the reasons I'm proud to be associated with Unicef is because Unicef is working to reduce the number of children who die every day from preventable causes. It is shocking to me that in this day and age, 22,000 children are still dying every day for want of the most basic things like clean water to drink, a safe place to live or access to medicines when they are sick. I am determined to do whatever I can to help Unicef."

Other ambassadors include the late Audrey Hepburn, Sir Roger Moore, Vanessa Redgrave and, more recently, Lionel Messi and Orlando Bloom.