United States first lady Laura Bush started a five-day, four-country tour of Africa with a stop in Dakar, Senegal. Kari Barber reports for VOA from Dakar that Mrs. Bush toured a hospital HIV/AIDS center and met with young women who received a U.S.-government backed scholarship to continue their education.

Mrs. Bush picked vegetables and placed them in a basket as she greeted Steve Bolinger, creator of a garden designed to provide food and income for patients living with HIV/AIDS.

At the Fann Hospital, Mrs. Bush also distributed mosquito nets treated with repellent to HIV/AIDS patients who are highly susceptible to malaria.

"We just eradicated malaria in the United States in about 1950," said Mrs. Bush. "We know malaria can be eradicated, so we stand with you as you try to eradicate malaria in Senegal."

Through her visit, Mrs. Bush is looking at how U.S. aid is being used to fight malaria and HIV/AIDS in Africa and to improve education.

The first lady met with President Abdoulaye Wade and first lady Viviane Wade at the presidential palace.

She also held audience at Grande Medine grade school where she recognized five female students who won scholarships through the U.S. Africa Education Initiative.

Mrs. Bush talked with one of the winners, named Nango.

"Nango says her scholarship gives her an opportunity few girls in her rural village have ever had. The chance to be educated past primary school." she said. "Now Nango plans to become the first girl in her village to attend a university."

Before a crowd at the school, Mrs. Bush announced the United States will send 800,000 textbooks to Senegal schools before the end of the summer. She also promised more training for teachers and scholarships for young women.

"An investment in education, no matter how significant, is always worth it," said Mrs. Bush. "By investing in education, governments meet their other fundamental obligations to improve opportunities for family's and children, to strengthen their economy and to keep their citizens in good health."

President and Mrs. Bush's daughter Jenna Bush is accompanying her mother on the tour. Mrs. Bush's trip will continue through Friday with stops in Mozambique, Zambia and Mali.