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Madonna arrived in Malawi on Wednesday on a mission to help AIDS orphans--and is reportedly planning on leaving with an adopted child from this impoverished southern African country. Andrina Mchiela, secretary to the minister for gender and child welfare, said the pop star planned to adopt a child and launch six projects to help underprivileged children during her stay. Madonna and her husband, film director Guy Ritchie, have a son, Rocco, 5, and the singer also has a daughter, Lourdes, 9.
Contrary to statements by officials, however, the material girl said she was not intending to adopt an AIDS orphan during the visit.
Madonna and an entourage of some 10 people landed on a private plane in the capital of Lilongwe just after 9 a.m., according to Mchiela. There had been no prior announcement. Madonna was expected to spend Wednesday resting in Lilongwe. She was to travel Thursday to Mphandula, a village about 30 miles from the capital, where she wants to set up an education and feeding center for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Malawi is among the poorest countries in the world, trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of hunger and disease. HIV/AIDS has infected just over 14% of the 12 million residents--most of them economically active adults--and has left an estimated 1 million children orphaned. In villages like Mphandula, many orphaned children are cared for either by siblings or grandparents, who struggle to find food for the extended family. There is no electricity in the village, and the inhabitants live in mud-and-thatch huts. Televisions are nonexistent, and radios are rare, meaning that most of the villagers have never even heard Madonna sing. Madonna unveiled her plans for Malawi in an interview in August with Time magazine. She said she wants to raise at least $3 million for programs to support AIDS orphans. Madonna joins a growing list of entertainer-activists who have focused on Africa. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, whose child was born in Namibia earlier this year, recently announced they would donate $1 million each to two humanitarian organizations active on the continent. Actor and director George Clooney has campaigned passionately for the victims of the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan. Madonna has teamed up with developing-world economic expert Jeffrey Sachs on programs in Malawi, and she's met with former U.S. president Bill Clinton about bringing low-cost medicines to the country. Sachs has launched a series of comprehensive projects to transform villages in Africa, and Clinton last month announced a campaign against rural poverty in Malawi that will focus in part on combating AIDS. (Raphael Tenthani, AP)