President Bush proposed a $1.2 billion program on Thursday (June 30) to combat malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and promised to double the amount of aid the United States will donate to the continent over the next five years.
Thursday's announcement comes a week before the president is scheduled to meet with the rest of the Group of Eight — the leaders of eight of the world's leading industrialized nations (see "What Is The G8, Anyway?") — at the G8 Summit in Scotland on July 6. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is spearheading the conference this year, has put Africa on top of the agenda.
Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security advisor, said the president's pledge would increase overall U.S. aid to Africa from $4.3 billion in 2004 to at least $8.6 billion by 2010, according to The Associated Press.
He also said he would increase funding for malaria prevention and treatment programs to $1.2 billion to help lower the death rate of the disease in 15 African nations by 50 percent over the next five years. More than 1 million people worldwide die from the mosquito-borne illness every year, and it is one of the leading causes of death in Africa, the AP reports. The funds will first be put toward insecticides, bed nets and anti-malarial drugs in Tanzania, Uganda and Angola, and would expand to four additional countries in 2007, and five more in 2008.
"Across Africa, people who were preparing to die are now preparing to live, and America is playing a role in so many of those miracles," Bush said.
In addition to the malaria program, Bush also announced an initiative to provide legal protection for women and education to girls. He proposed spending $400 million over the next four years to train half a million teachers, fund scholarships for 300,000 students (mostly female), build schools and buy textbooks in 16 countries, according to the AP.
"We must give more girls in Africa a real chance to avoid exploitation and to chart their own future," he said. Bush will also tap Congress for $55 million over three years to provide better legal protections for African women who suffer physical and sexual abuse.
Earlier this month, the president announced the U.S. would direct an additional $674 million in humanitarian aid to nations in Africa, but he was later criticized when he failed to agree to Blair's proposal for summit countries to up aid to Africa to 0.7 percent of their gross national product (see "Bush, Blair Lead Up To G8 — And Live 8 — With Commitment To Aid Africa"). The U.S. currently contributes less than 0.2 percent of its GNP to humanitarian efforts abroad.
"Although [this] is a step in the right direction, doubling current aid flow to [$8 billion] is still billions of dollars short" of what the U.S. should be giving, said Erin Trowbridge of the U.N. Millennium Project, which aims to reduce poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and sexual discrimination.
Blair's report states total African aid needs to double from the current $25 billion to $50 billion by 2010, and increase from $50 billion to $75 billion by 2015. That would make the U.S. share approximately $15 billion.
Chad Dobson, policy director for Oxfam America — which fights poverty, hunger and social injustice — sees the move as optimistic and told the AP he hoped Bush's announcement would signal the beginning of a much bigger commitment to Africa. He also said it created "the momentum that is needed" for Bush going into the G8 Summit.
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