- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2008

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — President Bush and first lady Laura Bush yesterday visited the northern city of Arusha to highlight the effectiveness of U.S. aid that has prevented thousands of deaths from malaria.

“For years, malaria has been a health crisis in sub-Sahara Africa,” Mr. Bush said, during a visit to the Meru District Hospital.

“The suffering caused by malaria is needless and every death caused by malaria is unacceptable. It is unacceptable,” Mr. Bush said.

The Bush administration in 2005 began sending $1.2 billion to 15 African nations over five years to prevent and treat malaria, which is most often mosquito-borne and transmitted.

The aid has gone to distributing insecticide-treated bed nets, training health workers, treating the most at risk to malaria such as pregnant women, and educating the public about how to prevent the disease.

Mr. Bush said 5 million vouchers for bed nets have been given away in Tanzania so far, and announced yesterday that the U.S. and Tanzanian governments aim to distribute 5 million more over the next six months.

Malaria deaths at the Meru hospital fell from 50 in 2006 to five last year, in large part because of these programs, Mr. Bush said.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete praised the program Sunday.

“There are thousands of women and children who would have died from malaria, that are alive in Tanzania and all over the country, thanks to your malaria support program,” Mr. Kikwete said at a press conference with Mr. Bush at the State House.

Mr. Kikwete cited the example of Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island off the coast of Tanzania.

About 500,000 residents of Zanzibar were treated for malaria in 2004. But by last year, that number dropped to 10,000, Mr. Kikwete said.

Mr. and Mrs. Bush visited a textile factory later in the day that produces, among other things, some of the bed nets.

“So as this campaign protects women and children from malaria, it also … boosts local economies,” Mr. Bush said.

The last event of the day for the president and first lady was a visit to Maasai Girls School in Arusha, devoted to educating young girls from the Maasai tribe, many of whom ran away from forced marriages.

Most of the girls are attending the school on scholarships provided by a U.S. education initiative in Africa of $600 million over eight years.

“By 2010, this effort will have distributed over 15 million textbooks, trained nearly 1 million teachers, and provided 550,000 scholarships for young women,” National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley recently said.

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