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'We are grateful': Nelson Mandela's family speaks as he responds to treatment

The former president of South Africa remains in the hospital as doctors continue to monitor his health after he developed a lung infection. NBC's Lester Holt reports.

PRETORIA, South Africa – Nelson Mandela’s family spoke publicly for the first time since his latest hospital admission Wednesday as sources expressed optimism about his progress.

“We appreciate the support we have received,” Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, told NBC outside the family home in Houghton, Pretoria.

As schoolchildren in sing "Madiba get well" in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela's grandson, Mandla, speaks to reporters from outside his grandfather's hospital in Pretoria, expressing his family's gratitude for prayers and support from communities around the world during the recent health scare.

“We are particularly honored to have received all the prayers and messages,” he said.

It was the first time any relatives have spoken publicly since the 94-year-old democracy icon was admitted to the hospital with a lung infection Saturday.

“We want to say ‘thank you’ and we appreciate all the support you have shown to our grandfather and your father - because my grandfather is the father of the nation, because he is embraced by the whole global community - so we appreciate the support we have received."

Meanwhile Jacob Zuma, the country's current president, announced that Mandela was "responding better to treatment."

Two family sources said they were optimistic and relaxed about Mandela's steady progress, and were hopeful Mandela would return home soon.

Family members have been flocking to Mandela's side at a Pretoria hospital while hundreds journalists from around the world wait outside to hear news of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's condition.

Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa, during which time tuberculosis weakened his lungs.

After he was released in 1990, he took his fight for racial equality right to the presidency, toppling the minority white leadership and becoming the country's first black president.

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View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.

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