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Madiba's dream of a new, state-of-the-art children's hospital in Johannesburg is moving closer to reality, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund announced on Friday.
“This is one of (former president Nelson) Mandela's dreams and we see it as his lasting legacy,” said NMCF trustee Nana Magomola.
Magomola said about 300 children died a year, not because of a shortage of doctors but due to a lack of facilities dedicated to the care of children.
The country has only one children's hospital, in Cape Town.
“Maybe this is something as leaders we forgot to do,” Magomola said.
“We took care of ourselves and forgot the children.”
She said the hospital had raised about a quarter of the estimated R1 billion price tag for initial construction.
Magomola said she hoped that would be doubled by the end of the year, for the project to begin in earnest with a completion date of July 2014.
“We'd like to give this as a birthday gift for Mandela,” Magomola said.
The hospital would be an academic teaching institution with a relationship to the Wits Medical School. The university was also donating land for the facility.
Magomola said that after the initial costs, the government had agreed to pick up the operating tab to the tune of about R400 million a year and services would be provided for free.
“Children will not be turned away because they don't have money to pay for services,” Magomola said.
The hospital would be a holistic facility providing care for cancer patients and children in need of thoracic, cranial and facial treatment.
It would have teaching and tutoring facilities for children in long-term care, accommodation for parents and telemedicine facilities for the treatment of children throughout the southern African region.
Magomola made her announcement at the fund's Annual Children Celebration in Johannesburg.
Dozens of schoolchildren flocked to the event.
Among them was Atamelang Primary School pupil Bonolo Precious, who said: “I love Tata Mandela because he fought for us and our freedom.”
Precious said she and her classmates had written a letter to congratulate Mandela on his birthday.
“What's your name?” asked MC and Yo-TV presenter Rori Thandekiso of one boy.
“Happy birthday Tata Mandela! We love you!” the boy said in response.
“That's all that matters,” laughed Thandekiso. - Sapa