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Bush Announces New Anti-Malarial Measures in Tanzania


President Bush is in Tanzania where he has announced a new initiative to fight malaria. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the program aims to provide insecticide-treated bed nets to every Tanzanian child under five.

The president and Mrs. Bush toured Meru District Hospital in northern Tanzania where they gave pregnant women insecticide-treated bed nets to protect them and their children against malaria.

"The suffering caused by malaria is needless," Mr. Bush said. "And every death caused by malaria is unacceptable."

Bed nets are one of the simplest and most effective means of preventing malaria. So President Bush announced a new initiative with the World Bank to provide more than five million free bed nets over the next six months. That should be enough to cover all Tanzanian children under five.

As the nets are manufactured locally, President Bush says they not only prevent disease but create jobs as well.

"So as this campaign protects women and children from malaria, it also boosts local economies," Mr. Bush said. "It helps develop a culture of bed net use that will be sustained long after relief programs have ended."

The president's five-year, $1.2 billion malaria initiative is meant to cut malaria deaths by half in 15 African countries.

The program includes training for health workers, indoor spraying, and treatment for up to 85 percent of the most vulnerable groups - primarily pregnant women, children under five, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete says the U.S. initiative has dramatically cut incidents of the diseases on the island of Zanzibar where 35 percent of people tested positive for malaria in 2004. Last year it was just one percent.

"Mr. President, today there are thousands of women and children who would have died from malaria that are alive in Tanzania thanks to your malaria support program," Kikwete said.

The United States also funds a program in Dar es Salaam to kill mosquito larvae in the water where they are born. That has cut the malaria risk in Tanzania's largest city by half since 2002.

The president is doing some long-distance lobbying on this Africa trip, calling on Congress and American taxpayers to continue funding the President's Malaria Initiative - or PMI - as well as a program to fight AIDS known as PEPFAR.

Stephen Morrison is Co-Director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a private policy research group in Washington.

"In both cases, the emphasis on PEPFAR and PMI is both to reassure the African audience that these commitments are going to be sustained and to assuage doubt as we look towards the end of this administration, but also to play back to an American audience about the payback and the value of all of this," Morrison said.

After Tanzania, the president visits Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia.

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