Mandela’s children’s hospital ‘dream’

19 July 2013

Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday saw the launch of a global campaign to realize his dream of bringing free and accessible healthcare to South Africa’s children through the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.

The campaign was launched by the Legacy of Hope Foundation, a group of trusted nonprofits supporting Mandela’s legacy, at a private function celebrating Mandela’s birthday in New York on Thursday evening.

The foundation, which is made up of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, Operation of Hope Worldwide, and FM World Charities, said in a statement that the campaign would include educational initiatives and calls-to-action encouraging the world to learn about Mandela and support his dream to build a children’s hospital in South Africa.

The campaign will culminate in music concerts on three continents – in South Africa in December 2013 and in New York and Paris in early 2014.

Mandela’s dream, according to the foundation, began 10 years ago when he visited the five-year-old son of his friend, Sibongile Mkhabela, in hospital. The facility did not have resources dedicated to children, and Mkhabela’s son, who was suffering from third-degree burns, passed away.

Mkhabela “left the hospital without her son, but walked away with a shared vision by Mr Mandela to improve the country’s healthcare for children.” She is now the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust.

Mandela said in 2006 that a specialized, dedicated children’s hospital would serve as “a credible demonstration of the commitment of African leaders to place the rights of children at the forefront”.

The whole of Africa is home to 450-million children served by only four dedicated children’s hospitals – two in Cairo, Egypt, one in Nairobi, Kenya, and one in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital will be built in Johannesburg, with construction due to start in late 2013, and the doors to open to patients in late 2014.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital “is a wonderful gesture of Madiba and the fund established by him for the specific benefit of the most vulnerable in society, our children,” said Archbishop Emeritus Desmund Tutu, one of the hospital’s patrons.

Legacy of Hope Foundation CEO Eric Gast said the international campaign behind the hospital aimed to engage a new generation around Mandela’s values, ideals, and commitment.

Mkhabela said the hospital would not only save lives, but would also “give children the right to be cared for and to receive advanced medical treatment irrespective of their social or economic status.”

The foundation, led by Gast, Mkhabela and Jennifer Trubenbach, boasts a list of famous celebrities as honorary committee members, including Maya Angelou, Salma Hayek Pinault, Natalie Portman, Ruby Bridges, Katherine Heigl, Octavia Spencer, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Charlize Theron, Arun Gandhi, Nicole Kidman, Ben Vereen, Whoopi Goldberg, Sir Ben Kingsley, Barbara Walters, and Elie and Marion Wiesel.

SAinfo reporter