US performer Madonna gestures after visiting the paediatric surgery and Malawi's first ever intensive care unit under construction, at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in the southern city of Blantyre, Sunday, July 10, 2016. The pop star has been in Malawi for a week during which she has met with President Peter Mutharika and health minister Peter Kumpalume. Madonna, who has adopted two children from Malawi, is scheduled to visit Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital on Sunday to view the pediatric unit where construction started in May 2015 and which is expected to open in early 2017. (Photo: AFP)
Madonna shrugged off controversies about her relationship with Malawi, the homeland of her two adopted children, and spoke freely of her family life during a visit to the country Sunday.
The US pop diva appeared cheerful after inspecting progress at a surgical unit for children that her charity, Raising Malawi, is funding at Queen Elizabeth hospital in the commercial capital Blantyre.
"We are really excited about it," Madonna told reporters. "Hopefully it should up and running in 2017.
"This new facility is the first paediatric intensive care unit in any Malawi hospital. It will have an enormous impact on saving the lives of children," she said.
"Children are the future. I love children because they are the most honest and most creative."
It is the first time in nearly two years that Madonna has visited the country, where she has at times been embroiled in controversy after her adoption of David Banda in 2006 and Mercy James in 2009.
She was stripped of her VIP status by former president Joyce Banda's government in 2013 and accused of being "uncouth" and wanting eternal gratitude from the impoverished country for adopting the two children.
But Banda was ousted in 2014 elections and the new president, Peter Mutharika, has moved to repair relations, saying "my government has always been grateful for the passion Madonna has for this country".
The pop star and the president are expected to meet on Monday.
Speaking openly to reporters for the first time during a visit to Malawi, Madonna, sporting a fedora hat, said "ask David yourself" when she was questioned about the adopted boy's future.
"I want to be a professional soccer player," David replied, while Madonna added that she plays soccer with her son and her family at home.
Madonna said she would not revive plans for a $15 million academy for girls in Malawi, which was cancelled amid allegations of mismanagement -- leading to her tiff with the former president.
"It was a great idea, but we want to build more primary schools," she said.
Madonna is reportedly the biggest individual donor to children's projects such as orphanages in Malawi, which is ranked by the UN Human Development Index as one of the world's 20 least developed countries.
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