Nelson Mandela's foundation has vowed to press ahead with upcoming 95th birthday celebrations, as the global peace icon underwent a 12th day in hospital Wednesday for a recurring lung infection.

On his July 18 birthday, various charity organisations and businesses will paint schools, hand out food parcels and books, and run a 67 kilometre (41 miles) relay marathon in the spirit of Mandela's 67 years of activism and public work.

Mandela spent 27 years in jail for his opposition to white minority rule, and walked free to become the country's first black president after all-race elections in 1994.

"We see this as an opportunity for people to rise above Madiba's hospitalisation," said Sello Hatang, the foundation's CEO, referring to Mandela by his clan name.

The Nobel peace laureate, who devoted his life to promote education and AIDS activism, wanted people to carry on his good work, his great-grandson Mbuso Mandela told AFP.

"His idea for me was just to continue the legacy which he put forth to myself and to the rest of the nation, which is humility and education," said the 22-year-old.

Local and global celebrities have also endorsed a call by the United Nations, which declared the former president's birthday International Mandela Day, on people to do 67 minutes of good deeds.

"I too will also be giving my 67 minutes to make the world a better place, one small step at a time," said British billionaire Richard Branson in a video clip played at this year's International Mandela Day launch in Johannesburg.

Mandela's birthday celebrations will be all the more poignant as the icon battles a persistent pulmonary condition that has plagued him for years.

He was hospitalised on June 8 in the capital Pretoria with a lung infection, and the South African presidency has described his condition as serious but improving.

But the United Nations insisted on his living legacy, instead of the ailing man.

"People are focusing more on his passing away rather than his recovery," said UN country representative Agostinho Zacarias.

"We at the UN would like to focus on his recovery and a quick recovery, and wish him well."

Former US president Bill Clinton said following Mandela's example starts with small actions.

"In doing so we can inspire more and more people to live as Mandela has: with the belief that tomorrow does not have to be like yesterday," he said in pre-recorded message.

Another great-grandson, Luvuyo Mandela, 27, said his world-renowned relative would have been proud to see people echo his goodwill in their deeds.

"How would he respond? With his world-famous smile," said the younger Mandela.

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  • (FILES) Anti-apartheid leader and Africa

    (FILES) Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela (c), together with his then-wife Winnie (l), Walter Sisulu (r), Veteran ANC secretary-general and Robben Island prisoner and Sisulu's wife Albertina (2nd-r), are seated 13 February 1990 on the platform in the middle of Soweto Soccer City stadium, during a rally attended by over 100,000 people, to celebrate Mandela's release from jail 11 February 1990. (Photo credit should read WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images)

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    SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA: Enthusiastic supporters wait behind a banner commending the release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela outside Mandela's Soweto home 14 February 1990 leaning against a wall fence while Nelson Mandela was being interviewed. (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Thousand of conservative white South Afr

    Thousand of conservative white South Africans march through the streets of Pretoria on February 15, 1990 in a protest against the reforms made by President Frederik W. De Klerk and the release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela. (Photo credit should read PHILIP LITTLETON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • People march in Havana, 15 February 1990

    People march in Havana, 15 February 1990, to celebrate the liberation of South African anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail, was freed 10 February 1990. (Photo credit should read RAFAEL PEREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

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    Supporters of anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela salute during a mass rally of African National Congress (ANC), a few days after his release from jail, 25 February 1990, in the conservative Afrikaaner town of Bloemfontein, where ANC was formed 75 years ago. (Photo credit should read TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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    Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela raises clenched fist, arriving to address mass rally, a few days after his release from jail, 25 February 1990, in the conservative Afrikaaner town of Bloemfontein, where ANC was formed 75 years ago. At his right, his wife Winnie Mandela. (Photo credit should read PHILIP LITTLETON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Anti-apartheid leader and African Nation

    Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela raises clenched fist, arriving to address mass rally, a few days after his release from jail, 25 February 1990, in the conservative Afrikaaner town of Bloemfontein, where ANC was formed 75 years ago. (Photo credit should read TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • Jubilant inhabitants of Soweto attend a

    Jubilant inhabitants of Soweto attend a mass african National Congress (ANC) rally to be addressed by freed anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela at Orlando stadium in Soweto, 12 February 1990. It's the first rally Nelson Mandela is holding since his release from jail, 11 February 1990. The rally was originaly called for to celebrate the unbanning of the ANC but turned out to be a celebration for the release from jail of Nelson Mandela. (Photo credit should read PHILIP LITTLETON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Anti-apartheid leader and African Nation

    Anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela waves to well-wishers while his wife Winnie smiles from the garden of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's residence 12 February 1990 in Cape Town. After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. Nelson Mandela was released 11 February 1990. AFP PHOTO WALTER DHLADHLA (Photo credit should read WALTER DHALDHLA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Freed anti-apartheid leader and African

    Freed anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela (L), his wife Winnie Mandela, ANC general secretary and former Robben Island prison inmate Walter Sisulu (3rd R) and other unidentified relatives raise their fist, 12 February 1990 in the garden of Desmond Tutu's residence in Cape Town, one day after the release from jail of Nelson Mandela. (Photo credit should read WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images)

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    To scale version of Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island made from the very same prison fencing that kept him incarcerated on the island ...

  • NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 21: South African Nationa Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela (c) smiles 21 June 1990 in New York after New York Mayor David Dinkins (2nd-l) presented him with a Yankee baseball jacket and cup during a concert and rally at Yankee Stadium. Mandela told the crowd, 'Now you know who I am. I am a Yankee'. (MARIA BASTONE/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni visit the prison where former South African President Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years, on Robben island in Cape Town, South Africa on February 29, 2008-

    SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 29: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni visit the prison where former South African President Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years, on Robben island in Cape Town, South Africa on February 29, 2008-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife Carla Bruni, visit the cell where former South African President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, on Robben island, South Africa. (Photo by Pool Interagences/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

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