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“We are really struggling - they were our main funders. In fact, we increased the children we feed daily because of them,” said Lucy Chapomba, administrator at Consol Homes, a group that runs projects for orphans and vulnerable children in central Malawi.

Mr. Neilson said Raising Malawi was funding Consol Homes through the middle of this year but that Consol Homes was not fulfilling its financial reporting obligations and there were “major concerns” about the performance of its management team.

“So, as of now, we’re not going to be continuing that funding unless they can show us that the money will be well used,” Mr. Neilson said. “Raising Malawi does not just hand out money to anyone and everyone that wants it. We have a clear grant-making process and performance metrics associated with these grants. So people in Malawi might not like that we measure their performance, but that is the way that Raising Malawi is now run.”

Mr. Neilson said that since 2007, Raising Malawi has invested more than $7 million, including $1 million for Consol Homes, in programs to support orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi.

Anjimile Ntila-Oponyo, a Harvard-trained teacher Madonna poached from the United Nations Development Project to head her Malawi project, is locked in a legal battle over unpaid wages. Ms. Ntila-Oponyo is gagged by a confidentiality clause she signed with the singer and refused to discuss the issue with the AP.

Malawi’s relations with foreign donors have been strained by accusations President Bingu wa Mutharika is authoritarian and responsible for human rights abuses. Earlier this month, a U.S. aid agency that rewards good governance suspended $350 million worth of assistance to Malawi.

Madonna said her new approach in Malawi will serve twice as many children as an original plan that had led some to draw parallels to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, which the talk show host and entrepreneur started in neighboring South Africa in 2007. Miss Winfrey, who spent $40 million on her campus, recently acknowledged hers “is not a sustainable model for most people in most countries.”

Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi, David and Mercy, both now 6. Children’s welfare groups had expressed concern about the adoptions, saying rules meant to protect children were bent because of Madonna’s celebrity and perhaps out of gratitude for what she had done and was expected to do for Malawi.

“Currently half of all Malawi’s children don’t finish the primary school cycle,” Mr. Neilson said. “Madonna would like to help those children go to school.”

AP Music writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody in New York contributed to this report.