The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, which is the African continent’s fourth dedicated children’s facility, will provide highly specialised services for the children in South Africa and in the region, Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said on Friday.

Speaking at the official launch of the hospital, which serves as a referral facility, Motsoaledi said the hospital will be classified as a central hospital.

“The hospital will play a pivotal role in achieving the goals of highly specialised services for children in South Africa and the region. It will be classified as a central hospital. There are only 10 [central hospitals] in the country because of their relationship with our medical schools. This will be the 11th one,” he said.

Located in Johannesburg, the hospital, is not only important for the well-being of children but it will serve as a training ground for specialists.

Motsoaledi said the hospital was a fulfilment of one of Madiba’s greatest dreams.

“This is an auspicious day for both the memory of Madiba and the children of South Africa and the region. Mandela loved children. I am sure that wherever Madiba is, he is looking down on us and I’m sure that he would have preferred to be with us.

“I am also sure that he would have been very proud of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund as well as the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, which worked tirelessly to raise funds for the erection of this beautiful building.”

The Minister said, however, that it was a sad reality that millions of children around the world are not cared for.

“It is a global crisis and one that can only get worse. According to the UN Children’s Fund, there are an estimated 151 million children with either one or both parents dead. In South Africa, the figure is 1.2 million. It makes these children vulnerable, especially when they get ill and need specialised care,” he said.

The world class hospital is only the fourth of its kind on the continent, while a country like Canada has 23 such hospitals.

“Madiba was a strong advocate for a children’s hospital. He said children had the right to receive the best treatment when they are ill, irrespective of their economic and social status. The true wealth of this world rests in the well-being of its children,” said the Minister.

The Minister said government will support the hospital which has 48 critical care beds.

Widow of the country’s first President in a democratic South Africa, Graca Machel, said the hospital will also cater for children from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

“This hospital is a monument of love, care and service by Madiba himself. This hospital is a monument of excellence,” said Machel.

The hospital, she said, speaks to the fact that every child deserves the best of its society.

“Every child counts and matters This hospital is also an expression of what a collaboration can achieve. Many people contributed to make it happen,” said Machel.