Madonna and Gucci team up for Malawi charity gig

NEW YORK - Madonna is joining forces with luxury goods-maker Gucci to raise funds for orphans in Malawi, the impoverished southern African nation where she has been trying to adopt a child since last year.

The American pop star and Gucci will host a fund-raising event with dinner, a musical performance and a party on February 6 next year to mark the opening of Gucci's largest store in the world, on New York's Fifth Avenue.

Madonna said the event will benefit UNICEF and the charity she co-founded in 2006, Raising Malawi, which focuses on trying to end the poverty and hardship suffered by Malawi's 1 million orphans, many of whose parents died of AIDS.

"I am grateful that Gucci is joining forces with me to bring attention to a country with millions of children in desperate need of our help," Madonna said in a statement.

"Raising Malawi has already done tremendous work in helping these children. But we have much more to do and this event will surely bring us closer to our goal."

Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie's bid to adopt David Banda from Malawi has hit several stumbling blocks since they took the 13-month-old boy from the African country last year.

He had been placed in an orphanage by his father after the death of his mother.

Rights groups have accused Madonna of using her fame and wealth to circumvent the country's adoption rules, although the singer has insisted she is following the law.

Malawi's High Court is to hold a hearing next year into whether Madonna and Ritchie are suitable parents and should adopt the child.

The New York event is expected to raise at least $2 million with Madonna joined by a list of celebrity co-chairs for the event, including Adrien Brody, Arpad Busson, Salma Hayek and Francois-Henri Pinault, Tea Leoni, Lucy Liu, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Gucci, which is owned by French retailer PPR, has been a UNICEF corporate partner since 2004.

Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF, thanked Madonna and Gucci and said AIDS remained one of the most devastating public health problems in recent history.

"Every day, 6,000 children lose a parent to AIDS, and 1,400 children die from AIDS," Stern said in the statement.

- REUTERS/Nielsen

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