US President George W. Bush on Thursday proposed initiatives to help Africa, calling for increased spending to fight malaria, help more children attend school and ensure the rights of women.
The proposals were the latest in a series of steps taken by the White House to provide more aid to Africa, partly in response to pressure exerted by other world leaders, including Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. Blair has made addressing poverty and disease in Africa the main focus of a summit meeting of the world's major industrial nations in Scotland next week that Bush will attend. The White House has been scrambling to come up with plans so that the US can be shown to be doing its share in the face of international criticism that it has been too stingy.
The president put the proposals in the context of broader imperatives for the US, from the national security implications that stem from economic and political disorder in poor nations to the moral demand of helping the world's neediest people.
"We fight the war on terror with our power; we will win the war on terror with freedom and justice and hope," Bush said in announcing the new programs during a speech in Washington to an invited audience that included African diplomats at the Freer Gallery of Art.
"We seek progress in Africa and throughout the developing world because conscience demands it."
Bush also made some of his strongest comments yet on the killing in Darfur region of Sudan, as the government has tried to crush a rebel movement, saying the violence "is clearly genocide" and reiterating the support of the US for African peacekeeping efforts there and attempts to negotiate a settlement in the long-running civil war.
Bush outlined three new efforts to address some of Africa's worst problems. He said the US would spend at least US$1.2 billion over the next five years in an effort to reduce by half the deaths from malaria in 15 African nations. More than 1 million people a year die of malaria each year, most of them children and most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
He called for spending US$400 million over the next five years on a program to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Africa by training teachers, providing scholarships to girls, distributing textbooks and expanding job training.
Bush also announced a US$55 million program, to be carried out over the next three years in four African nations, to help combat sexual violence against women and to address related issues of justice and health care.
"Today, in Africa, the US is engaged as never before," Bush said. "We're seeing great progress, and great needs remain."
The decision to propose a major new program to battle malaria amounted to a policy reversal by Bush, who five months ago sent Congress a budget request for next year that would have cut funding for anti-malaria programs. The administration sought to cut funding for anti-malaria programs administered by the US to US$58 million from the US$90 million enacted by Congress for this year.
The House Appropriations Committee has already approved legislation keeping funding at US$90 million for next year, and the Senate is seeking an increase to US$105 million.
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