Madonna in Malawi to open kids' hospi­tal wing

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

US pop su­per­star Madonna was due yes­ter­day to for­mally open a chil­dren's hospi­tal wing that her char­ity has built in Malawi and which is named af­ter one of her four adopted Malaw­ian chil­dren. The Mercy James pae­di­atric hospi­tal unit in Blan­tyre, the coun­try's sec­ond city, has taken two years to build and in­cludes three op­er­at­ing the­atres and a 50bed ward. It is the first spe­cial­ist health unit for chil­dren in the poor south­ern African na­tion, dou­bling the ca­pac­ity for pae­di­atric care at the Queen El­iz­a­beth hospi­tal. Govern­ment of­fi­cials con­firmed Madonna, 58, was in Blan­tyre for Tues­day's sched­uled open­ing cer­e­mony, which is also due to be at­tended by Pres­i­dent Peter Mutharika.

Ear­lier this year Madonna adopted twin girls from an or­phan­age in the south­ern African coun­try af­ter hear­ing of their plight through her char­ity "Rais­ing Malawi". Twins Estere and Stella, four years old, joined her other Malaw­ian chil­dren Mercy James and David Banda, both 11. Madonna, who set up the char­ity in 2006, has been a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to Malawi, tak­ing Mercy and David last year when she in­spected on­go­ing work at the chil­dren's hospi­tal wing.

'A chance of sur­vival'

She has not al­ways been wel­comed with open arms in one of the world's poor­est coun­tries, where some ac­tivists ac­cuse her of us­ing her wealth to short cut the adop­tion process. In 2013, she was stripped of her of­fi­cial VIP sta­tus in Malawi by then pres­i­dent Joyce Banda's govern­ment, which ac­cused her of be­ing "un­couth" and ex­pect­ing grat­i­tude for her adop­tions. Pres­i­dent Mutharika moved to re­pair the re­la­tion­ship, say­ing his govern­ment had "al­ways been grate­ful for the pas­sion Madonna has for this coun­try". The singer, who di­vorced film di­rec­tor Guy Ritchie in 2008, now has six chil­dren af­ter adopt­ing her twins.

Court doc­u­ments de­tailed how the twins were taken in by an or­phan­age sup­ported by Madonna's char­ity. Their mother died soon af­ter child­birth, their fa­ther left to marry an­other wo­man, and their grand­mother strug­gled to look af­ter sev­eral chil­dren. "Malawi needs such kind-hearted peo­ple to pros­per," Malita Ndau, a 20-year-old wo­man sell­ing dough­nuts in Blan­tyre, told AFP. "Malaw­ian chil­dren will now have a chance of sur­vival be­cause of this hospi­tal." But some Malaw­ians said the hospi­tal high­lighted the coun­try's fail­ures. Malawi should "be ashamed for beg­ging from her to build this fa­cil­ity be­cause we have failed to tame cor­rup­tion," said Mumbo Phiri, who sells sec­ond hand clothes. The new hospi­tal wing opened to pa­tients last week and has al­ready per­formed its first surgery. — AFP

This file photo shows US pop star Madonna (left) walk­ing out with Dr Eric Borg­stein (right) af­ter vis­it­ing the Queen El­iz­a­beth Cen­tral Hospi­tal (QECH) where he launched a new project with Min­istry of Health to con­struct a pe­di­atric surgery and in­ten­sive care unit at the hospi­tal in Blan­tyre, Malawi. — AFP

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