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Madonna plans to adopt child in Malawi, government officials say



Associated Press

Madonna plans to adopt a child in Malawi, government officials said Wednesday, as the pop star arrived in the southern African nation on a mission to help AIDS orphans.

"She told us she is looking for a baby boy," said Andrina Mchiela, a senior official with Malawi's Ministry for Gender and Chile Welfare. "Her team has identified a few, but the choice is hers."

Mchiela also said the pop star planned to launch six projects to help underprivileged children during her stay.

Madonna's publicist, Liz Rosenberg, confirmed that the singer was in the country to work on projects for children and said she had not adopted a baby.

"She is on a private visit to Malawi and is involved in the building of an orphanage-child care center as well as other initiatives to help the children of that country who have lost parents to Aids," Rosenberg told The Associated Press in an e-mail late Wednesday.

"I have no information or confirmation regarding Madonna adopting an individual child. She's kind of adopting an entire country of children," Rosenberg added.

Mchiela told the AP that Madonna and her husband, director Guy Ritchie, would be subject to a probation period required of all prospective adoptive parents.

"After her husband and her fill in the papers, we'll allow them to take him away, not as adoptive parents but foster parents until after the 18-24 months when the government of Malawi will assess whether they are a suitable family," she said. "This is a legal requirement that cannot be fast-tracked."

Madonna and Ritchie have a son, Rocco, 5, and the singer also has a daughter, Lourdes, 9.

Benston Kilimbe, director of social welfare in the government, said Madonna was expected to file the adoption papers on Thursday.

The 48-year-old star 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. They also have two adopted children -- one from Ethiopia and one from Cambodia.

Actor and director George Clooney also has campaigned passionately for the victims of the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Madonna and her entourage landed on a private plane in the capital, Lilongwe, on Wednesday morning, Mchiela said.

The star was to travel Thursday to Mphandula, a village about 30 miles from the capital, where she wants to set up a 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. Just over 14 percent of the 12 million population are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and an estimated 1 million children have been orphaned.

In villages like Mphandula, many orphans are cared for either by siblings or grandparents, who struggle to find food for the extended family. The village has no electricity and the inhabitants live in mud and thatched huts.

Televisions are nonexistent and radios are rare, meaning that most of the villagers have never even heard Madonna sing.

Madonna's project, called Raising Malawi, aims to set up an orphan care center to provide food, education and shelter for up to 4,000 children. It will have projects based on Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism that has gained popularity in recent years.

In a letter on the organization's Web site, Madonna said she hoped to help "bring an end to the extreme poverty and degradation suffered by Malawi's orphans."

Madonna, a devout practitioner of Kabbalah, 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.

2006 Oct 5