Bush vows to double Africa aid in 5 years

Proposals fall short of Blair's campaign ahead of G-8 summit

July 01, 2005|By Warren Vieth and Benjamin Weyl | Warren Vieth and Benjamin Weyl,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - President Bush, responding to international pressure to do more for Africa, proposed yesterday 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 Bush's Africa initiatives, which include smaller programs to increase education and reduce sexual violence, represented a significant new commitment of U.S. resources to assist many of the world's poorest nations.

But the proposals fell somewhat short of the challenge issued by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in advance of next week's summit in Scotland of the Group of Eight industrialized nations. Blair has put Africa aid at the top of the G-8 agenda.

In remarks previewing America's response to Blair's campaign, which has been joined by religious leaders, relief organizations and rock stars on both sides of the Atlantic, Bush said U.S. aid to Africa had tripled since he took office, and would double again by 2010.

"After years of colonization and Marxism and racism, Africa is on the threshold of great advances," Bush told an audience assembled by the conservative Hudson Institute at the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art.

"All who live in Africa can be certain, as you seize this moment of opportunity, America will be your partner and your friend," Bush said.

Stephen J. Hadley, the president's national security adviser, said the president's aid pledge would increase overall U.S. assistance to Africa from $4.3 billion in 2004 to at least $8.6 billion by 2010. Hadley characterized it as the largest aid increase over the shortest period of time "since Harry Truman and the Marshall Plan."

Bush's biggest specific commitment was his pledge to increase funding of malaria prevention and treatment programs by $1.2 billion over five years. The United States now allocates about $200 million a year to fighting the insect-borne disease that kills more than 1 million Africans every year.

"In the overwhelming majority of cases, the victims are less than 5 years old, their lives suddenly ended by nothing more than a mosquito bite," Bush said. "The toll of malaria is even more tragic because the disease itself is highly treatable and preventable."

The government-funded effort is designed to dovetail with a similar program announced recently by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bush said he would press other G-8 leaders at next week's summit to join in the effort, with a goal of reducing malaria deaths by half in targeted countries.

The two other Africa initiatives announced by Bush would allocate $400 million over four years to extend a program that trains teachers, awards scholarships and builds schools, and $55 million to help four nations with their efforts to combat sexual violence and abuse against women.

Health and education advocates said they welcomed Bush's promises of additional U.S. aid, but several criticized the administration for not digging a little deeper.

"It is a small amount of money compared to what is required," said Louis Da Gama, malaria director for the Massive Effort Campaign, a private relief group. ."

Gene Sperling, chairman of the U.S. branch of the Global Campaign for Education, characterized Bush's education initiative as "a very small baby step" for African schoolchildren.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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