Bush Ties U.S. Malaria Aid to Moral Duty

President Bush made the case for his malaria initiative Monday by promoting it as the United States' moral duty while visiting Tanzania amid his five-nation Africa tour.

The president, together with first lady Laura Bush, visited a hospital and mosquito net factory, handed out insecticide-treated bed nets, and gave out hugs to grateful Tanzanians on the mission visit meant not only to improve the health of the impoverished continent, but also to preserve Bush's African health initiatives beyond his tenure as president.

"The disease (malaria) keeps sick workers home, schoolyards quiet, communities in mourning," Bush said about the disease which kills 100,000 people a year in Tanzania alone, according to The Associated Press. "The suffering caused by malaria is needless and every death caused by malaria is unacceptable.

"It is unacceptable to people here in Africa, who see their families devastated and economies crippled. It is unacceptable to people in the United States, who believe every human life has value."

Bush announced Monday that the United States is part of a new international effort to provide a mosquito net to protect every child between one and five from being infected with malaria. The United States, in partnership with the World Bank and The Global Fund, plan to distribute 5.2 million free bed nets in Tanzania in six months.

"The power to save lives comes with the moral obligation to use it," Bush said about the U.S. commitment.

In 2005, Bush launched a $1.2 billion, five-year program to cut malaria deaths in half in the hardest-hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 80 percent of malaria cases occur in this region, killing at least 1 million infants and children under five each year.

Bush's malaria program provides insecticide-treated bed nets, treatment, and social programs to these African nations to fight malaria. The program has thus helped more than 25 million people.

In addition to the U.S. government, American churches are also tackling malaria. The United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Ministries and the Episcopal Church's Episcopal Relief and Development were both recognized at the White House Summit on Malaria in 2006 for its efforts to combat the preventable disease.

The United Methodist Church, which President Bush and his wife are members of, is one of the founding members of a popular grassroots campaign against malaria called "Nothing But Nets." The campaign has raised millions of dollars and has purchase over 1.8 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets to distribute in Africa.

Also during his Africa visit, Bush emphasized the effectiveness of his five-year, $15 billion AIDS relief plan. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest-ever international health initiative targeted at one disease, expires in September 2008 and Congress is currently reviewing the president's request to double the AIDS fund to $30 billion over the next five years.

Democrats have complained the amount is too little and there is debate on the program's emphasis on abstinence and requirement of anti-prostitution pledges, according to AP.

On Tuesday, Bush visited Rwanda and toured a memorial where 250,000 Rwandans killed in the 1994 genocide are buried. Rwanda is the third country the president visited on his five-nation Africa tour that includes Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and lastly Liberia.