MERCY James, American pop diva Madonna’s Malawian-born daughter, said she feels honoured that the first specialised health unit for children in the country has been named after her.
She spoke yesterday during the opening of Mercy James Centre for Paediatric Surgery and Intensive Care at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) in Blantyre.
The centre will double the capacity for paediatric care at the Qech.
“I remember few years ago when I visited this place. Today with the generosity of many people, this paediatric hospital has been completed.
It is a great honour to know that the hospital is named after me; what is more important is how many kids will be saved.
“I want to thank all those who started the journey with us and continue raising Malawi,” Mercy, 11, said emotionally to a loud applause.
She singled out outstanding veteran paediatrician, Dr Eric Borgstein, and health personnel working at Qech and other partners of Raising Malawi.
“Thank you to all the doctors and nurses who stand by your (Dr Borgstein’s) side as you care for all the children who come for help and thank you all the donors for equipment, medicine, mosquito nets and the list goes on and on,” she said.
Mercy was invited to the podium by an excited Madonna who donned a long black and yellow floral dress complete with a black top. Madonna was in high spirits after her other Malawian-born child, David Banda, joined an acrobatic dance group composed of orphans from Jacaranda School of Orphans.
But Madonna could not hide her emotions when she narrated why the centre was named after Mercy, saying she fought a tough legal battle to adopt her after being rejected by the High Court.
“If you know me, I am a freedom fighter and a feminist with a rebel heart….so I would not accept the word no,” she said.
Madonna recalled finding Mercy at an orphanage centre, suffering from malaria, and promising her she, would make sure that she, alongside David, would grow into strong and healthy adults.
“I hired a team of lawyers and appealed and it was not an easy battle. Finally, Mercy arrived in my arms.
“I never gave up and backed down. I fought for Mercy and won,” she said to an equally excited crowd that included President Peter Mutharika, his Vice Saulos Chilima and their spouses.
The pop diva, who sat close to her adopted children, said she never imagined in her life she would build the centre.
“I never dreamed I would have six children, four of them Malawians.
“ This centre was built so that ‘children should never die of terrible diseases we can easily cure’. We are here to raise Malawi.
“The universe will always conspire to help you get it,” she said.
Earlier this year Madonna, 58, adopted twin girls from an orphanage in the country where she has been a regular visitor years.
The four-year-old twins, Estere and Stella, also attended the ceremony.
Court documents detail how the twins were taken in by an orphanage supported by Madonna’s charity.
Their mother died soon after childbirth and their father left to marry another woman, leaving them in their grandmother’s care. The grandmother struggled to look after several other grandchildren.
Madonna, who set up her ‘Raising Malawi’ charity in 2006, joined local dancers to celebrate the opening after a one-hour tour of the hospital, which was decorated with national flags and bunting.
The wards have been designed with murals, including images of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, while US actor Leonardo DiCaprio was listed on a wall as a major benefactor.
Mutharika cut a blue ceremonial ribbon, and held it up to the cheering crowd.
He praised Madonna for building “the first and best child care centre” in Malawi and described her as a “symbol of motherly spirit”.
“Half of our population is made up of children, hence it is important to invest in children because they are the future. This centre is our national pride. In our culture, every child belongs to the community, hence we care for all the children. What Madonna has done is an African communal spirit,” Mutharika said.
The 50-bed facility opened to patients last week and has already performed its first surgery.
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