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Nelson Mandela's Health 'Steadily Improving' on 95th Birthday

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Nelson Mandela's health appears to be taking a turn for the better as the former South African President turns 95 on Thursday.

A statement released Thursday by South African President Jacob Zuma's office says "doctors have confirmed that [Mandela's] health is steadily improving."

Mandela was last listed in critical but stable condition.  The civil rights leader has been at Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria since June 8, when he was admitted for a recurring lung infection.

Before visiting Mandela at the hospital Thursday morning, Zuma issued a statement wishing the Nobel Peace Prize winner a "joyous 95th birthday."

"We are proud to call this international icon our own as South Africans and wish him good health.  We thank all our people for supporting Madiba [as Mandela is affectionately known] throughout the hospitalisation with undying love and compassion.  We also thank all for responding to the call to give Madiba the biggest birthday celebration ever this year," Zuma said.

To commemorate Mandela's birthday, a campaign known as "Mandela Day" is asking ordinary people to honor Mandela's legacy by volunteering 67 minutes of their time to charity or service projects.  Sixty-seven is the number of years Mandela served his country through public service, politics and prison.

"On Nelson Mandela International Day, people everywhere have the opportunity to honor Madiba through individual and collective acts of service.  Through our own lives, by heeding his example, we can honor the man who showed his own people -- and the world -- the path to justice, equality, and freedom," President Obama said in a statement late Wednesday.

Obama said he and the first lady -- on behalf of his family and the people of the United States -- "extend our warmest wishes and prayers to Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 95th birthday, as well as to [Mandela's wife] Graça Machel, the Mandela family, and the government and people of South Africa."

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