Bush, first lady promote low-tech health solution in Africa
Feb 18, 2008
ARUSHA, Tanzania (CNN) — President George W. Bush focused on a low-tech way to save the lives of African children Monday as he and first lady Laura Bush toured a Tanzanian clinic.
Pregnant women at the clinic are given vouchers they can trade for mosquito nets to protect their newborns from malaria.
Tanzania is the second of five nations in President Bush’s six-day Africa tour that stresses U.S. initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and poverty on the continent.
“Suffering caused by malaria is needless and every death caused by malaria is unacceptable,” Bush said to several dozen expectant mothers waiting to get their vouchers at the Meru District Hospital in Arusha.
The Bushes then helped hand out bed nets to the women.
“This is one of the simplest technologies imaginable, but it is also one of the most effective,” Bush said.
For Bush, the trip offers a chance to make the case that his legacy on foreign policy should not be judged on the Iraq war alone.
The visit is “basically an effort to celebrate successes,” said Joel Barkan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Many Americans picture Africa as the “continent of gloom and doom,” but Barkan said the president’s message is one of “making progress.”
“Different people may have different views about you and your administration and your legacy,” Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said.
“You, Mr. President, and your administration, have been good friends of our country and have been good friends of Africa,” he said.
Bush said the United States has helped health programs in 15 African countries with a goal of cutting malaria deaths in half. Along with funding the insecticide-treated bed nets, the programs also provide drugs and train health workers to use them, he said.
The United States has partnered with the World Bank the the Global Fund to distribute more than five million bed nets throughout Tanzania this year, Bush said.
Bush’s entourage then drove to a Tanzanian factory where the mosquito nets are made.
Bush was welcomed warmly in Tanzania and Benin, where he visited briefly Saturday.
In both countries, Bush praised the governments for fighting corruption and conducting proper accounting for U.S. funds given to them.
Honest government, he said, is a prerequisite for his Millennium Challenge grants that have brought millions of dollars to each country for fighting poverty and disease.
Bush made another pitch while in Tanzania for a doubling of funding for the administration’s HIV/AIDS prevention initiative in Africa. He has asked Congress to approve $30 billion over the next five years for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.
Kikwete said it would be a disaster and people would die if the United States did not renew the PEPFAR program.
From Tanzania, the Bushes will travel on Tuesday to Rwanda, where they will meet with President Paul Kagame.
The United States has provided nearly 7,000 Rwandan troops with training, and spent more than $17 million to equip and transport Rwandan troops for service in Sudan, according to national security adviser Stephen Hadley.
Years of violence in Sudan’s western Darfur region have killed roughly 200,000 people and displaced at least 2 million. Nomadic Arab militias — allegedly allied with the Sudanese government — have targeted pastoral black Africans.
On Thursday, Bush reiterated the United States’ characterization of the conflict, saying, “In Darfur, the U.S. will continue to call the killing what it is — genocide.”
From Rwanda, the Bushes will travel to Ghana and then to Liberia.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is on the Africa trip, veered off to Kenya Monday to support efforts to reach political conciliation there.
The country erupted in ethnic violence after its December 27 presidential vote, in which incumbent President Mwai Kibaki kept his post. His opponent, Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, blasted the results, saying the election was rigged, and he and his supporters declined to recognize the election as valid.
Violence has dropped as former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediates talks between the two groups.