Madonna Visits Malawi

Monday, April 16th 2007, 7:18 am
By: News On 6

LILONGWE, Malawi (AP) _ Madonna flew to Malawi on a silver jet Monday to continue her charity work in the impoverished southern African country, bringing along the Malawian boy she is in the process of adopting.

The pop star, wearing a baseball cap, carried a small boy down the steps of the jet, and a child's seat was fixed into a waiting sports utility vehicle. Her three-vehicle motorcade then drove off at top speed to a luxury ranch, followed by journalists.

Madonna visited Malawi last fall to pick up 1-year-old David Banda, who was in an orphanage after the death of his mother. That visit set off a controversy over concerns that regulations were being swept aside to benefit a pop star who has been generous to the country.

Madonna, 48, and her filmmaker husband Guy Ritchie were granted an interim court order on Oct. 12 allowing them to take initial custody of David. Under Malawi regulations, prospective parents must undergo an 18-to-24 month assessment period, but Madonna was allowed to take the boy to her London home soon after the court order.

Malawian child welfare officials are expected to file a report on the suitability of Madonna and Ritchie as adoptive parents after two trips to their London residence in May and December. The singer says has followed the law.

Ahead of her latest visit, the grass was cut and hedges trimmed at the airport, the orphanages and care centers she has been involved with were painted, and security was tightened around the exclusive lodge where the star stayed last year.

Madonna's New York-based publicist Liz Rosenberg said the star was visiting to continue her work with her Raising Malawi organization and denied speculation of another adoption.

``She is overseeing the building of a children's health care center. She is absolutely not adopting another baby,'' Rosenberg said in a statement.

Yacinta Chapomba, a director of local aid group Consol Homes, said a childcare center built with the help of Madonna's organization would have an opening ceremony Monday. She could not confirm whether Madonna would attend.

The center in the impoverished village of Mphandula, 30 miles outside the capital, Lilongwe, will initially house 400 children who lost their parents to AIDS.

There has also been much activity at the Home of Hope orphanage where David was cared for. The road to the village of Mchinji have been graded, new flowers planted and the children have received new uniforms. Three local police officers have been posted at the orphanage.

David's father, Yohane Banda, surrendered his son to the orphanage after his wife died of childbirth complications. The couple's two other sons died in infancy from malaria.

After initial confusion, Banda has said he wants David to stay with Madonna and Ritchie, saying he was too poor to raise him.

The road to Banda's village on the Zambian border has also been cleared, but it was unclear whether Madonna would visit him.

Madonna's organization aims to provide food, education and shelter for up to 4,000 children.

Malawi is among the poorest countries in the world, with rampant disease and hunger, aggravated by periodic droughts and crop failure. Just over 14 percent of its 12 million people have HIV.