Bush calls for $1,2bn to curtail malaria in Africa

President George W Bush on Thursday called for a $1,2-billion US effort to cut deaths from malaria in Africa in half over five years, part of a range of new initiatives targeted at the continent’s problems.

“We know that large-scale action can defeat this disease in whole regions and the world must take action,” Bush said in a wide-ranging speech on his Africa policy. “Together we can lift this threat and defeat this fear across the African continent.” Bush also proposed doubling US spending to $400-million on initiatives to promote the education of girls in Africa and said he wanted Congress to approve $55-million over three years to improve legal protections for women in Africa against violence and sexual abuse.

The announcements came as Bush prepares to travel to Scotland next week for a meeting of major industrial democracies and Russia that is to focus on Africa. The new initiatives, along with $674-million in emergency famine relief announced earlier this month alongside British Prime Minister Tony Blair, allows Bush to blunt criticism that he is turning down Blair’s proposals to double aid to Africa overall.

Bush has agreed with Blair to wipe out the debt of many poor nations in Africa and elsewhere.
He says a doubling of US aid to Africa is not necessary because such assistance has already tripled during his presidency and set to continue to rise.

Malaria is one of the top killers in Africa, and most of its victims are children. The ancient mosquito-borne disease infects as many as 400-million people worldwide, killing one million a year.

The malaria initiative aims to provide tens of millions to Tanzania, Uganda and Angola in the first year, adding at least four more countries in 2007 and at least five more in 2008 for an eventual total spending of $1,2-billion, Bush said.

The president said his proposal would eventually cover 175-million people in 15 nations most affected by the disease.

Because the disease is highly preventable, the money will pay for approaches such as providing insecticide-treated sleeping nets, encouraging greater use of insecticides indoors and financing a new generation of anti-malarial drugs. As resistance to other anti-malarial drugs has grown, the World Health Organization has recommended the use of artemisinin-based combination drug treatments to fight the disease. The drug is extracted from artemisia annua, more commonly known as wormwood or sagewort, a plant native to Asia.-Sapa-AP

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