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Madonna visits Malawi orphanages for second day in a row, official says she plans to adopt



Associated Press

Madonna visited an orphanage near Malawi's capital Friday and a government official said she still believed the pop star intended to adopt a child in the country although no papers had been filed yet.

Shortly after Madonna's arrival in the impoverished southern African country Wednesday, government officials said she planned to adopt an orphaned boy. But by Friday, there was still no confirmation.

Madonna's publicist, Liz Rosenberg, has denied any knowledge that the pop star was to adopt a baby.

The celebrity, who has kept a low-profile since arriving in Malawi, made a secretive visit Friday to the Chezi Orphan Care Center near the capital, Lilongwe, the Mines, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Henry Chimunthu Banda said. The Catholic-run orphanage in a rural area has a nursery, a school and a clinic and is well known in the region.

Madonna had been scheduled to meet Friday with Banda -- the top government official in the absence of President Bingu wa Mutharika, who is out of the country. But Banda said Madonna had been "caught up" due to her visit to the orphanage and their meeting had been postponed.

On Thursday, Madonna visited another orphanage near Malawi's commercial capital of Blantyre where she was greeted by a crowd of singing orphans. Orphanage officials said her husband Guy Ritchie accompanied her and filmed the children who received copies of her children's book, "The English Roses." The orphanage is home to 128 children, many of whom have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS in a pattern repeated throughout the country.

Andrina Mchiela, a senior official with Malawi's Ministry for Gender and Child Welfare, said Friday that no adoption papers had been filed yet, even though Madonna had voiced her intention to adopt a child.

"As far as we are concerned, her plans remain unchanged," she said.

Madonna recently launched a new project called Raising Malawi, which 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, or Jewish mysticism, which has gained popularity in recent years and counts the 48-year-old singer among its devotees.

Kabbalah is virtually unheard of in Malawi, a predominantly Roman Catholic country where superstitions and belief in witchcraft run high.

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.

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

Madonna joins a growing list of entertainer-activists who have focused on aiding Africa.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, whose daughter 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.

2006 Oct 6