Most Africans are grateful to George W. Bush

By Zarina Fazaldin | Richmond Times-Dispatch

I am Kenyan-born and was raised in Tanzania, which is — with a population of about 35 million — the thirdlargest country in the world at risk of malaria. Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, is the leading cause of death in Africa, killing almost 1 million people a year. Tanzania has 18 million cases of malaria and more than 100,000 deaths yearly — mostly children and pregnant women — meaning every five minutes a person dies from this preventable disease that can be treated at a cost of $10.

Despite the depressing reality of this forgotten disease, today Tanzania and other African nations can be optimistic that malaria can be controlled and may be virtually eliminated due to President Bush’s humanitarian initiative.

In 2005, Bush created the President’s Malaria Initiative, committing $1.2 billion, which started with Tanzania, Uganda, and Angola, and then targeted eight additional African countries. As a malaria survivor with family, classmates, and neighbors who died of malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS in Tanzania and Kenya, I am especially thankful for the president’s aggressive humanitarian program that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

The malaria rate has dropped significantly more than the 50 percent benchmark in each country. For example, in Pemba and Zanzibar, Tanzania, the malaria rate dropped 87 percent — proving malaria can be controlled.

Since 2001, President Bush has been committed to supporting various causes in Africa. U.S. aid to Africa quadrupled from $1.3 billion to more than $5 billion in 2005 and to almost $9 billion for 2010, representing the largest increase since the Truman administration. The President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief has touched millions of Africans — making PEPFAR perhaps one of his greatest humanitarian successes. Today, the United States and the Bill Gates Foundation are the largest contributors toward fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Additionally, the president’s Millennium Challenge Corp. identified nine African countries to receive $3.8 billion for infrastructure and agriculture. The president also implemented an African Education Initiative training almost 1 million teachers, providing more than 10 million textbooks, and giving hundreds of thousands of scholarships for girls’ education.

President Bush strongly pressed the nations being assisted to address the scourge of government corruption, asserting that Americans “expect countries that we help to fight corruption and to govern justly. There is nothing more pitiful than to have people’s hopes robbed by corrupt government officials.”

In 1977 as a child on a crowded street in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, I was among thousands of people cheering on a hot day as Fidel Castro’s motorcade passed. Now as a U. S. citizen who supports democratic principles, I watched and cheered President Bush’s visit last year to several African countries, including now democratic Tanzania, as thousands of people lined the streets cheering, singing, dancing, waving American flags, throwing flowers in his path, and some hugging him with excitement.

Even though millions of people watched President Bush’s visit to Africa on television, few were aware of the significance and substance of the trip. The media seemed more interested in the festive events and the president’s dancing and joking than in the thousands of lives saved due to his novel humanitarian approach that has benefited African nations.

The Bush administration also played various other humanitarian roles and was a mediator that saved hundreds of thousands of lives in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Northern Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Sudan. Thus, it is no surprise that many newborn boys in Sudan are named “George Bush” and a day has been named George W. Bush Malaria Day in Benin.

Today, President Bush and the U. S. enjoy an 80 percent approval rating in Africa — including countries with a large Muslim population. Africa will remain a positive accomplishment of his administration. While some may not give President Bush full recognition, Africans throughout the world will long remember him and tell many success stories about George and Laura Bush’s extraordinary humanitarian legacy in Africa.

(Zarina Fazaldin, a local real estate developer, can be reached at 804 310-5051 or [email protected])

FORUM | AMHARIC