Hailed as hero, Bush offers more help to fight malaria
Mon 18 Feb 2008, 15:35 GMT
By Tabassum Zakaria
ARUSHA, Tanzania (Reuters)
Article link: http://africa.reuters.com/top/news/usnBAN856108.html
ARUSHA, Tanzania (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush, hailed as a hero in Tanzania, announced a plan on Monday to distribute enough bed nets to protect all the country’s children below the age of five from malaria.
Pushing the compassionate agenda that has made him more popular in Africa than most parts of the globe, Bush toured the northern city of Arusha, visiting a hospital, a mosquito-net factory and a school for girls.
Calling the fight against malaria in Africa a “campaign of compassion”, Bush announced a new plan, in partnership with the World Bank, to distribute 5.2 million insecticide-treated bed nets to protect infants.
Bush said on Sunday: “It breaks my heart that little children are dying needlessly because of a mosquito bite”.
Malaria, with AIDS one of the twin scourges of the continent, kills at least a million infants under five in sub-Saharan Africa each year.
“For years malaria has been a health crisis … the disease keeps sick workers home, school yards quiet, communities in mourning,” Bush said during a visit to Meru District Hospital. “The suffering caused by malaria is needless and every death caused by malaria is unacceptable,” he added.
“This is one of the simplest technologies imaginable, but it’s also one of the most effective,” said Bush, standing before an audience of pregnant women at the hospital, where he handed out a few bed nets as well as hugs and kisses to waiting women.
“This is a practical way to help save lives. It is in the interests of the United States to save lives,” Bush said.
The president later visited a factory that exports impregnated bed nets all over the continent, climbing under a blue net to try it out.
Tanzania, lauded by Washington as a progressive African state, is the centrepiece of Bush’s tour and he has been feted both in the streets and by President Jakaya Kikwete.
The Tanzanian leader on Sunday poured praise on Bush, saying his personal programmes to fight malaria and AIDS had saved thousands of lives. Bush signed the richest ever deal under his Millennium Challenge Corp. granting this country $698 million.
Bush is unpopular at home and criticised in much of the world for his handling of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, but widely respected for his projects in Africa, especially those to fight malaria and AIDS.
In June 2005 Bush launched a $1.2 billion, 5-year plan to reduce deaths caused by malaria by 50 percent in 15 African countries.
In addition to providing bed nets to protect against mosquitoes, the malaria initiative supports indoor spraying of insecticide and anti-malarial drugs and medicine.
In Arusha, Tanzania’s safari capital in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, also visited a school for Maasai girls who are often deprived of schooling in a male-dominated society.
He and his wife Laura were greeted by girls in Maasai red dresses and beaded headwear bobbing and singing “Welcome Mr. President, the first lady. Look at us, listen to our voices, we are the Maasai girls with a chance for education.”
Bush has pledged to increase total assistance to Africa to $8.7 billion by 2010, double 2004 levels.
Bush is avoiding Africa’s conflict zones on his tour.
The United States regards the presidents of Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia as a new generation of democratic African leaders and is backing them with health and education support and some military cooperation.
He is not visiting neighbouring Kenya, torn by a bloody post-election dispute that has killed 1,000 people in ethnic and political violence. But he sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice there on Monday to help give momentum to mediation efforts by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan.
Bush has thrown his weight heavily behind a power-sharing deal to end the crisis.
(Additional reporting by Deborah Charles; writing by Barry Moody)
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