February 11, 2008 / 10:01 AM / in 10 years

Malawi minister says Madonna adoption should not be denied

LILONGWE (Reuters) - A Malawian minister on Monday praised Madonna’s efforts to rally support for orphans in the southern African nation and said it would be wrong for the government to deny the pop star’s adoption of a child there.

Madonna holds David Banda at an orphan care centre in Mphendula Village, about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital Lilongwe April 19, 2007. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Madonna, who is in the process of adopting a Malawian boy, David Banda, hosted a New York event charity event last week that raised millions of dollars for the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the singer’s orphan care projects in Malawi.

“This country owes her so much. Very few famous people would take their time off to rally other celebrities to raise money for a poor country like Malawi, which very few people know about,” Information Minister Patricia Kaliati told Reuters.

“It will be wrong for Malawi to even dare deny this wonderful woman all the rights to be a parent of David and many more Malawian children,” Kaliati said.

Madonna is due to appear before a Malawi court in April for a final hearing on Banda’s adoption. She began the adoption proceedings in 2006 after meeting the boy in a local orphanage.

The toddler, now about two years old, is living with Madonna and her film director husband Guy Ritchie in London.

The adoption has been controversial, with critics accusing the government of skirting laws that ban non-residents from adopting children in Malawi, which has been badly hit by the AIDS epidemic and is one of the poorest in the world.

There are an estimated 1 million orphans in the country, many of whom are infected with the HIV virus.

Malawi’s government is amending its adoption laws.

Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Paul Simao and Charles Dick

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