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Bush has plan to fight malaria
By Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — President Bush, responding to international pressure to do more for Africa yesterday proposed a $1.2 billion program to combat malaria and promised to double U.S. aid to the continent over the next five years.
Administration officials said the initiatives, which included smaller programs to increase education and reduce sexual violence, represented a big new commitment.
Stephen Hadley, the president's national-security adviser, said the pledge would increase overall U.S. assistance to Africa from $4.3 billion in 2004 to at least $8.6 billion by 2010.
Most of the aid was aimed at fighting malaria, with a target of cutting in half the annual death toll of more than 1 million Africans. The aid is designed to dovetail with a similar program announced recently by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"We seek progress in Africa and throughout the developing world because conscience demands it," Bush said in a speech previewing the upcoming summit of the Group of Eight major nations. His announcement, coupled with previous commitments of new food aid and debt elimination for African nations, will enable Bush to head to the summit in Scotland arguing that he is stepping forward to help, even though he will not meet the far more ambitious goals set by summit host British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The president's speech and initiatives drew praise from some advocates, criticism from others who complained that Bush's language was not fully supported by his numbers, which they asserted were reached in part by repackaging previous pledges.
His address "touched on all the right levers for enhancing development," said Susan Rice, who was assistant secretary of state for Africa under President Clinton. "The bad news is when you look at the numbers ... it's a whole lot of smoke and mirrors, and it's frankly misrepresenting where we are and misleading about where we're going."
Several independent analysts said Bush's pledge would not likely satisfy British Prime Minister Tony Blair's request for an overall doubling of development assistance from wealthy nations by 2010 and a tripling by 2015.
Blair's proposal would require an additional $25 billion a year by 2010. So far, European nations have promised to provide $17 billion of that amount. Bush's promise would cover about $4 billion of the remaining $8 billion gap. Analysts said America typically contributes about a quarter of new multilateral aid initiatives.
The centerpiece malaria proposal — which requires congressional approval — would provide indoor spraying, long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and new combination drugs for treatment, Bush said, starting in Tanzania, Uganda and Angola.
The World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation all hailed Bush's program. At the same time, the Global AIDS Alliance, another advocacy group, noted that in the short term the malaria money would merely replenish funds Bush cut in this year's budget.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company