Friday, July 1, 2005

President Bush yesterday announced plans to spend $1.2 billion fighting malaria in Africa, where the disease “can cause more death than AIDS,” and millions more on “women’s justice and empowerment” across the troubled continent.

“Approximately 1 million last year alone died on the African continent because of malaria,” Mr. Bush said at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington. “And in the overwhelming majority of cases, the victims are less than 5 years old, their lives suddenly ended by nothing more than a mosquito bite.”

The president said he will urge industrial nations at the Group of Eight (G-8) economic summit in Scotland next week to help reduce by 50 percent the mortality rate from malaria in Africa. He also called for an additional $200 million toward education and $55 million to improve the legal rights of women on that continent.

The push comes just before tomorrow’s Live 8 rock concerts, aimed at eliciting African aid from G-8 nations, and just weeks after British Prime Minister Tony Blair asked Mr. Bush to spend more on Africa.

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said the president’s pledge to help “falls short of what some European countries are doing, but makes the U.S. a serious partner in the global effort to reduce poverty in Africa.”

Mr. Bush rejected the notion that his administration trails other nations in aid.

“Nearly 60 percent of global food aid to the continent of Africa comes from the United States,” he said. “We’ve tripled our aid to Africa; we plan to double it once again.”

In addition to food aid and $15 billion in AIDS relief, the Bush administration is branching into other areas of Africa funding with the initiative to battle malaria. If approved by Congress, the effort will begin next year in Tanzania, Uganda and Angola.

“We will take comprehensive action to provide indoor spraying, long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and effective new combination drugs,” he said.

Mr. Bush praised the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for funding similar efforts to eradicate malaria in Zambia, saying he was “grateful to have this strong partner in a good cause.”

Foundation President Patty Stonesifer said yesterday’s $1.2 billion pledge by Mr. Bush “will rapidly increase global efforts to fight this disease.”

“Malaria is the No. 1 killer of children in Africa, with one child dying every 30 seconds,” she added. “[I]t is a positive sign that the global community is finally recognizing this.”

Mr. Bush also pledged to improve legal rights for African women, many of whom are victims of sexual abuse. The money would help fund specialized police and hospital units, and provide legal aid.

In addition, Mr. Bush called for doubling funds for America’s Africa Education Initiative.

“We must work for the education of every African child,” he said. “In the next four years, we should provide $400 million to train half a million teachers and provide scholarships for 300,000 young people, mostly girls.”

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