Funded by Madonna's charity, Raising Malawi, the ward is the first specialized health unit for children in the country of 18 million residents. PIX: Christopher Smith/Admedia/dpa

BLANTYRE, MALAWI – US pop star Madonna on Tuesday opened a children’s hospital wing that her charity built in Malawi, saying it would “make a difference in the lives of thousands of children” in the southern African country.

The Mercy James paediatric surgery and intensive care ward, which can accommodate 50 patients at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in the country’s second-largest city, Blantyre, was named after one of the four children Madonna has adopted from Malawi.

Funded by Madonna’s charity, Raising Malawi, the ward is the first specialized health unit for children in the country of 18 million residents, which is among the 20 poorest in the world, according to the UN.

Speaking at an opening ceremony broadcast by the national radio station MBC, Madonna said that she first started planning to build the ward a decade ago when she was doing a documentary on children with HIV in Malawi.

The singer also recalled her legal battles to adopt Mercy James in 2009, saying: “I fought for Mercy and I won.”

“So I am here to say, ‘never give up on your dream’. Love conquers. If you do things with love in your heart, you will conquer,” the 58-year-old added.

Madonna said the new paediatric ward would create “a superior learning environment for training Malawi’s next generation of doctors so that the country can be self-sufficient in that field.”

President Peter Mutharika described Madonna as a “loving mother.”

“We can now have our children with heart conditions undergo surgery. This centre is our national pride,” the president said.

Earlier this year, Madonna adopted the twins Stella and Esther, aged 4, from an orphanage. They followed the adoption of two other Malawian children. David Banda and Mercy James, both 11, were adopted in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

The singer also has two biological children, Lourdes and Rocco.

Madonna co-founded Raising Malawi in 2006 to support orphans and vulnerable children in the country. In 2014, Mutharika appointed her Malawi’s ambassador for child welfare.

Mutharika’s predecessor, Joyce Banda, however, had a stormy relationship with the singer, whom she accused of having bad manners and of expecting exaggerated gratitude from Malawians. -dpa


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