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US Expands Anti-Malaria Aid to Africa

President Bush has expanded the number of African nations receiving special U.S. aid to combat malaria. Mr. Bush says there can be no turning back from his goal of cutting the number of malaria deaths in half in the 15 hardest hit African countries. VOA's David McAlary reports.

The president announced the expanded aid at a Washington malaria summit attended by international experts, African civic leaders, multilateral organizations, businesses, charities, churches, and non-governmental groups.

It is the next installment in a program unveiled last year to contribute $1.2 billion in malaria aid to the 15 African states over five years.

He said, "There's no turning back. We're going to continue to expand the malaria initiative to reach other countries across Africa as quickly as possible."

Mr. Bush's malaria initiative targets Africa because 90 percent of the world's one million or more malaria deaths occur there each year, mostly among children under five.

The expansion adds eight nations to the program -- Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, and Zambia.

The goal of the U.S. program is to increase provision of bed nets treated with insecticide, indoor spraying against mosquitoes, and anti-malaria drugs.

The White House says six million people in Angola, Tanzania, and Uganda are already benefitting from such U.S. assistance, and four more countries were included for aid in June -- Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Senegal.

President Bush says the United States conquered malaria domestically, proving that the disease can be eliminated. But he says America cannot win the global war against it alone.

"This is a global effort to fight malaria," he said. "The United States is proud to take the lead. I encourage other countries to step up and give."

The White House says fighting malaria requires broad international and domestic U.S. support at every level, down to community organizations.

Presidential assistant Anita McBride says this is why Mr. Bush and his wife Laura convened the Washington summit.

She said, "The purpose of the summit is to jump-start the effort, to educate the American public about malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, and to send a message globally to governments around the world that we need to join together to control malaria."

Earlier in the week, the largest international financier of anti-malaria efforts, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, said its bed net provision had increased two-thirds last year, from six million to 10 million treated nets.

In addition, the world's largest charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the United States, pledged $84 million to fight malaria.

While President's Bush's program focuses on existing technologies known to work against malaria, the Gates grant aims to develop better controls, improved tests, and a vaccine.

Melinda Gates told the malaria summit that the world must increase spending against the disease. According to the Roll Back Malaria partnership led by the World Health Organization, global spending falls far short of the more than $3 billion needed annually.

"We need to close the gap in funding and we have to accelerate the science," she said. "Most of all, we need to work together to commit to a coordinated global strategy."

As President Bush told the summit, the quicker malaria is eliminated, the better off the world will be.