Even the most road-worn travelers scratch their heads when asked to locate Malawi on a map. But as of late, Malawi is entering the spotlight on the coat-tails, or rather the Kabalah strings, of an American pop icon – Madonna. Though Madonna has yet to set foot in the country, she is already causing Malawians to wonder if she might be their “Lucky Star”.
Land-locked Malawi is a small country in southeast Africa, surrounded by Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique. Brochures describe Malawi as the “warm heart of Africa” and according to the Lonely Planet, this description holds true. The people are warm and welcoming and for the visitor, there is much to behold in this small, landlocked country, including; Africa’s third largest fresh-water lake, numerous national parks and game reserves, hiking, rock climbing, canoeing and much more.
However, Malawi is also one of the world’s poorest countries, with a large percentage of the population living on only $1 per day. Malawi is faced with a host of poverty related challenges, including AIDS, poor sanitation, insufficient education, poor nutrition, and lack of critical infrastructure, to name just a few. Madonna is working with several prominent figures in global development to try to change all of that.
The pop queen has promised to raise $3 million to fund programs that will feed and educate Malawi’s numerous orphans. She has also met with Jeffrey Sachs – an economist, the Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a best-selling author – and promised $1.5 million to support his Millennium Villages Project. Madonna has also donated $1 million to support a documentary focused on the plight of Malawian children and, finally, is soon to meet with Bill Clinton to discuss bringing low cost medicines to the region.
Whether it be publicity or purity-of-heart that is driving Madonna to this recent generosity, we may never know. But for the people of Malawi, the question is of little importance. After many years with scant public attention, Madonna’s latest performance will likely fall on a very receptive audience.
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