President Bush has announced an enhanced effort to combat malaria in Africa.   VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House, the president spoke Wednesday at an event marking Malaria Awareness Day in the United States (Africa Malaria Day worldwide).

The sound of African drums filled the air, as President Bush marked Malaria Awareness Day.

He spoke of the countries hard hit by the disease, and said the nations of the world must band together to stop the needless deaths.  He said those who have already conquered malaria, must help others do the same.

"Defeating malaria is going to be a challenge," said Mr. Bush.  "But it is not going to require a miracle, that is what I am here to tell you. It is going to require a smart and sustained campaign."

He said the disease can be controlled and eventually eradicated by distributing insecticide-treated bed netting, expanding indoor insecticide spraying, providing anti-malaria medicine to pregnant women, and delivering treatment to those already infected.

Mr. Bush left no doubt the stakes are high.   He said about 1 million people die of malaria each year, most of them children under the age of five.

"It's a sad statistic," he added.  "In some countries, malaria takes even more lives than HIV/AIDS.  Malaria imposes a crippling economic burden in sub-Saharan Africa, where so many are struggling to lift their families out of poverty."

The president focused on actions being taken by governments and the private sector to prevent and treat malaria in Africa. 

During his appearance, Mr. Bush announced the United States was sending 500,000 treated bed nets to Uganda, and he said a special initiative is beginning in Madagascar to address the twin threats of malaria and polio.

"There, we will team up with Malaria No More and the American Red Cross to distribute bed nets to nearly 1.4 million children under the age of five," he said.  "This delivery campaign will include polio vaccines to promote good overall health for children across the island."

The enhanced efforts are part of the 2005 Presidential Malaria Initiative, a five-year $1.2 billion program.

The president also stressed he will make combating malaria in Africa a priority at the upcoming Group of Eight Economic Summit in Germany.  And he said the White House will continue to call on private individuals and organizations to help.

One group already getting involved is the Global Business Coalition, which is working to expand distribution of mosquito netting in Zambia to protect children and AIDS patients with limited immune systems.   First lady Laura Bush is planning to go to the region to get a first hand look at the program in operation in a few months.