Madonna, stung by critics who wonder how she contravened Malawian law to adopt a child who still had a family, shot back with articles like THIS ONE

“I don’t want to judge him,” she said. “I don’t know his life. I believe he remarried and had moved on to another village and was kind of getting on with his life.

“And I think he truly felt in his that [David] would have a better life with me. So when he said no, that was my sign that it was my responsibility to look after him.”

Earlier, Yohane Banda said that he placed his son in the care of the Home of Hope in Mchinji because, after his wife died, he could not cope as a single parent and work the fields.

Ah yes…he “moved on”…just like Madonna does. From slut to earth mother. From fallen away Catholic to Kaballah. From USA working class to UK Upper class. And if you dare to criticize her latest fad, why you are a “racist”. Yet her own remarks and actions make one question if she understands the culture her “son” comes from, or why her act of being the great white mother who saves poor black babies offends many of us.

Once, when we were working in Appalachia, I mentioned something about the “poor” families we treated, and my husband sharply corrected me: “You don’t have poor in America. You aren’t poor as long as you have rice to eat”.

He is Philippino, and having lived through both the depression and World War II, knows something about poverty.

As one who worked as a doctor in rural Africa, let me explain village life to you.

In the villages, if your crop fails, you starve. So you have to work in the fields or you starve. There is no “social umbrella” except the family. If you are sick, it is the family who cares for you. If you are old, it is your children who care for you. Nowadays, with globalization, it often someone in the family who left the village to work in the big city, or the South African mines, or as a truck driver in Saudi, who sends you money to live on, or for medicine, or for school fees.

In the villages, the water is not especially clean, especially in the dry season when you might have to travel miles to a pond to fetch water. That is why Banda’s wife died: from a simple disease that could have been prevented by ten cents worth of Chlorox bleach, or a deep well, or simple WHO rehydration fluid and antibiotics.

Lacking these, she died, and left a newborn son.

Now, how do you feed a baby? The baby is fed by the mother, by breast. You see, a week of formula costs more than most people make in one month. Many mothers, receiving “samples” of formula at clinics, are under the impression that it is better for their babies, so use the formula, and as a result their own milk dries up. Alas, as babies get larger, the mothers dilute the formula, and the child ends up severely malnourished. Alas, if the mom is HIV positive, formula is “safer”, but unless formula is supplied, few families can afford it as the child gets larger and needs more milk.

There is another problem with formula:  in a land without refrigerators, the formula is a powder. You mix it with water…unclean water. Full of viruses and bacteria that cause diarrhea, which is the major cause of death in poor countries.

Local people know these things. So often, when the mother dies, a relative will offer to breast feed the child. Alas, often there is no one available, so to save the life of the child, the relatives take the child to an orphanage. The orphanage receives funding and can afford to pay wet nurses (local women who can breast feed several children) or buy formula.

But usually the child does not grow up in the orphanage unless there are no other relatives. Usually a relative will pick the child back up at age 4 or 5, when the child is more easily fed and cared for.

That is why Madonna’s snide remarks don’t make sense. The child was not “abandoned” but given up so that he could live…

But Madonna defends her adoption by letting the press know the father has remarried and “moved on”, implying his marriage to a pregnant fiance showed the father not only did not care for his previous wife (and her child) but could barely refrain himself sexually and as a result was forced to marry this new woman.

This again shows not only a disdain for others but shows gross ignorance of the realities of village life in Africa.

In small villages, a man must work all day in the fields. How do you eat? Yes, there are small, very expensive grocery stores and cafes. But if you are poor, you can’t afford that. Indeed, it is impossible to live without someone to cook, clean your house and clothing, and prepare food from scratch. In Africa, the wife has the vegetable garden, finds wild food in the woods, brews the beer, haggles at the market, grinds the corn, digs up the sweet potato, collects wood, starts the fire, and does the cooking from scratch. No microwave ovens in the villages.

So you get a relative to cook…a mother, a sister, a child. But they have their own families. So the easiest way is to remarry. For a brideprice, you get a woman to cook. And the added advantage is that you can sleep with her. But simply having a woman to work is not enough. You see, there is no social security. If you don’t have children, you won’t have help in the fields or with the goats. Unless you have sons, you will starve in your old age. So after you lobola the woman you want to marry (pay part of the bride price to her family) you don’t complete the marriage until she proves she is fertile.

Marriage is not about love, but about economics and family.

So Banda did not “move on” in the Western sense. He is simply a man trying to cope with life in this “vale of tears” as best he can. And if he “gave up his son” first to the orphanage and then to a rich woman for adoption, it is not because he doesn’t love his son and has “moved on”, but because he loves him enough to give him up in the hopes his son will have an easier life.

And as a mother of two adopted boys, could I sweetly point out that adoption is about finding a loving home for a child who does not have a home.

A child is a human being to be loved and cherished, and adoption is one way for loving parents to do just that.

Adoption is NOT about making a social statement, or to save the earth, or to “help” a poor orphan,or about balancing the sexes in one’s children.

By manipulating the system with money, by taking a child who already has a family, by implying Africans aren’t as good parents as a rich Brit, and by making sure she gets lots of publicity for her adoption, Madonna is the poster mother for the problems of allowing overseas parents to adopt children. Alas, the end result may be fewer countries allowing overseas adoptions.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician who lives in the rural Philippines with her husband.In her younger days, she worked as a physician in Zimbabwe and Liberia. Two of her five children are adopted from Colombia, South America.
Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.
She also posts to the blog MugabeMakaipa which documents news on the situation in Zimbabwe.

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