South Africa says former president Nelson Mandela’s health is steadily improving as he turns 95 years old today.
President Jacob Zuma wished Mandela happy birthday in a statement, saying South Africa is proud to call the international icon its own.
Mandela has been hospitalized for more than a month with a recurring lung infection. Officials describe his condition as critical but stable.
South Africans have big celebrations planned for his birthday today, which has been designated an international day of service.
Known as “Mandela Day,” people are asked to give 67 minutes of their time doing something charitable, or one minute for each year he dedicated to his struggle for social justice.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who visited South Africa last month, said in a statement late Wednesday that people everywhere can honor Mandela by “heeding his example” through acts of service.
Obama said he and his family will forever draw strength and inspiration from Mandela’s moral courage, kindness and humility.
Wednesday, Mandela’s daughter, Zindzi Mandela, said he is making remarkable progress and may be going home anytime soon.
She also said people were at one time preparing for the worst, but that her father continues to amaze. She said he is responding very well.
Mandela, who was hospitalized on June 8, is revered in South Africa and beyond for his role in ending official racial discrimination and white minority rule. After spending 27 years in prison, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected South Africa’s first black president the following year.