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One of Africa’s poorest countries has received a special gift from one of entertainment’s biggest and most colorful stars.

Elton John took time out from a tour of South Africa on January 17 to visit the nation of Lesotho and donate 120 motorcycles, to be used by doctors and nurses when treating medical emergencies the state’s more remote areas.

“We want to improve the transport system by bringing health care to millions of people living in the most rural areas and thus make a difference in their lives,” said the 60-year-old singer, who handed over the motorcycles to representatives of the Riders For Health program at a ceremony just outside the capital city of Maseru.

“The nurses and doctors will now have transport to follow up patients in the villages, to support community health workers,” added Lesotho Health Ministry spokesperson Tumisang Mokoai. “The motorcycles will be distributed to all health centers in Lesotho.”

Riders For Health has been working on treatment supply problems in Africa for over 15 years, and relies on organizations such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation for support and funding. The program entered Lesotho in 1991, with support from Save the Children, and medical treatment was delivered around the mountainous country’s 1.8 million people on 47 Kawasaki KV175s – which Riders For Health proudly points out ran for 7 years without a breakdown. Service was reduced in 1997, but the new motorcycles will begin a new push for the program in Lesotho in 2008.

Lesotho is a nation completely encircled by South Africa and suffers horrendous poverty and health statistics, with 23% of men aged between 15 and 45 suffering from HIV/AIDS.

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