John on April 27, 2007 at 12:31 am
US voters are understandably focused on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile President Bush is leading the US in another war, one which could arguably save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children:
More than a million people die each year from malaria. The mosquito-borne disease is the leading cause of death of African children under the age of 5 and tens of millions of people suffer chronically.
“Defeating malaria is going to be a challenge, but it’s not going to require a miracle,” he said.
In 2005, Bush undertook a five-year, $1.2-billion effort that challenges the private sector to join the U.S. government in combating malaria in the hardest-hit African nations. Its aim is to slash the disease’s mortality rate by half in targeted nations.
Angola, Tanzania and Uganda were the first three countries in the program, followed by Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal. In December, eight countries were added: Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali and Zambia.
Laura Bush said the initiative was going to provide 500,000 bed nets to the most vulnerable households in Zambia – about 10 percent of the country’s population. She said she would visit Zambia this summer to see the nets being distributed.
The president said the cooperation with Uganda is being expanded to hand out 500,000 nets there as well, an effort that he said will mean that eventually half of all Ugandan households will have a net.
Also through the U.S. initiative, bed nets will be distributed to nearly 1.4 million children under the age of 5, a campaign that will also include polio vaccines, Bush said.
He added that more than 11 million people in Africa have benefited so far after two years of the anti-malaria initiative and that the number should reach 30 million by the end of 2007 budget year, this September.
It was at a White House event marking Malaria Awareness Day that the President spoke about the program and afterwards joined a group of African dancers. He is literally beating a drum on this issue: