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Bush Receives Humanitarian Award for Africa Aid Efforts

President Bush has received a major humanitarian award for his work in Africa. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson has details.

The president is the latest recipient of the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Award - given each year to leaders who have made a significant commitment to Africa.

President Bush was honored for his efforts throughout his administration to combat disease across the continent. At the same time, he has expanded U.S. development assistance through his Millennium Challenge initiative which links aid to political and economic reforms.

He says America has an obligation to help the people of Africa. "It is in our national security interest that we defeat hopelessness. It is in our economic interest that we help economies grow. And it is in our moral interest that when we find hunger and suffering, the United States of America responds in a robust and effective way," he said.

The award was presented by the group Africare - which focuses attention on the problems facing Africa, and coordinates programs in areas ranging from clean water, to refugee relief.

Africare's annual dinner in Washington is one of the largest events held each year in the United States for Africa - bringing together more than thousand of international government and corporate leaders.

Mr. Bush told his audience that seeing the results of U.S. efforts to fight disease and poverty in Africa first hand has been one of the most uplifting experiences of his life.

He recalled a visit to a hospital in Tanzania that tests babies for malaria and helps mothers obtain bed nets to keep away disease-carrying mosquitoes while their children sleep. "I cannot tell you the expression of pride they had on their face when they held their babies up and said, 'my baby is healthy.' Nothing more hopeful than to see the joy on a mother's face, realizing that her baby has escaped the scourge of the deadly disease of malaria," he said.

Mr. Bush said he is especially proud of his effort to provide treatment for one-point-seven million people battling AIDS through PEPFAR - the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. He told the story of a South African mother whose life was saved at a PEPFAR clinic. She later brought her son, Baron, to the White House to bear witness as President Bush signed an extension of the AIDS treatment program into law.

"Baron is a reminder of the many lives that have been touched and saved by the compassion of the American people. And he represents the bright and promising future awaiting the folks in Africa," he said.

The president also reflected on the past recipients of Africare's Walker Award and said he is in very good company. They include former South African President Nelson Mandela, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.