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Bush Renews US Commitment to Fight Malaria in Africa

U.S. President George Bush marked Malaria Awareness Day by renewing America's commitment to turning the tide against malaria in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says it is a day to remember those who have died from malaria, especially the children who have lost their lives to a disease spread by a mosquito bite. But Mr. Bush says it is also a day of hope.

"Nations once trapped in fear because of malaria are now tackling malaria head on," he said. "And they are doing so with our help. It is a day of hope, because more Americans are recognizing the timeless truth: to whom much is given, much is required."

Mr. Bush spoke at a youth center in the Northeast state of Connecticut. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America have raised about $25,000 to buy more than 2,500 bed nets for families in Africa.

The World Health Organization says the effects of malaria account for 20 percent of deaths among African children. More than one million people die from the effects of the disease each year, and bed nets are an inexpensive way to slash the number of people infected.

The president's five-year, $1.2 billion malaria initiative aims to cut malaria-related deaths by half in 15 African countries by distributing insecticide-treated bed nets, expanding indoor insecticide spraying, and providing drugs to those in need.

The malaria initiative launched in 2005 was a centerpiece of the president's February trip to Africa. He highlighted the program's impact on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar where infant infection rates fell from 20 percent to less than one percent in two years.

Mr. Bush said it is an act of compassion that also advances America's security interests. "From experience, we understand that the terrorists and extremists can only find fertile recruiting grounds where they find hopelessness," he said. "Their ideology is so backwards, so distorted, so hateful nobody really wants to follow it unless you are so hopeless that it becomes appealing. And so the best way to defeat this ideology of hate is with acts of compassion and love."

The United States is the leading contributor to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria with about $2.5 billion contributed so far.

At last year's G8 summit, Mr. Bush got other leading industrialized nations to commit to cutting malaria deaths by half in an additional 15 countries. The president said he will diplomatically hold other leaders to that promise at this year's G8 summit in Japan.