- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

Malaria, a disease that kills two African children every minute, can be eliminated if governments, private business and religious organizations have the will to make it happen, President Bush said yesterday.

“It is possible to eliminate malaria,” Mr. Bush said at the White House Summit on Malaria. “We know exactly what it will take to prevent and treat the disease … It is not going to require a miracle. It requires smart, sustained effort.”

Some of the world’s leading global health specialists gathered at the National Geographic Society to announce a new initiative called Malaria No More.

The program will focus on the mosquito-borne disease in a massive publicity campaign to encourage every American to “save a life” by contributing $10 for a bed net treated with insecticide to prevent mosquitoes from biting at night.

In June 2005, Mr. Bush created a five-year $1.2 billion program to fight malaria in Africa, called the President’s Malaria Initiative. On the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania, where PMI is getting bed nets to people, spraying insecticides in houses and getting medicine to those who are infected, malaria has dropped by 90 percent since last year.

“Your taxpayer money is working to save lives,” said Mr. Bush, announcing the PMI campaign will expand to eight more African countries next year.

The program already is operating in Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal. The countries to be added are Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali and Zambia.

Related private initiatives were announced yesterday by Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank; Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr. Steven Phillips, medical director of Exxon Mobil Corp.; Ann Veneman, head of UNICEF; Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church; and the U.S. heads of the United Way, Boys and Girls Club and the Red Cross.

Laura Bush, who has made preventing and treating malaria a focus of her efforts as first lady, organized and convened the conference.

“Any individual who can raise $10, can buy a net and save a life,” Mrs. Bush said.

It was not clear why the Malaria No More nets would cost $10; Mr. Feachem of the Global Fund said in his presentation that nets cost between $5 and $6. It was suggested that the extra money may be used for education.

Roger Bate, head of Africa Fighting Malaria, which has been working on malaria for a decade, said he was gratified that powerful people with money are finally paying attention, but that getting bed nets into African homes is only a first step.

“Research done last summer by [the U.S. Agency for International Development] in Togo and Zambia found that the bed nets had been distributed to 90 percent of the homes but only hung up in 70 percent,” he said.

“And only 56 percent were being used on the night they were surveyed. They have to be used, even on hot nights. If that [extra $4] is used for education on this, that would be good.”

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