President George W. Bush on Thursday added eight countries to a U.S. initiative aimed at combating malaria in Africa and reducing the disease's mortality rate by 50 percent in the targeted nations.
The president also amended a 2003 executive order establishing a "global prosperity agenda" for the United States to add "controlling malaria" to "stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS" as a goal of the prosperity program.
The additional countries in the malaria program are Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali and Zambia.
The new countries were announced at a White House conference on malaria, intended to raise awareness of the mosquito-borne disease and to mobilize a grass-roots effort among voluntary, religious and nonprofit organizations to save millions of lives.
Just before the conference, Bush told the president of Benin, Boni Yayi, that the United States will commit resources, time and talent to help rid much of Africa of malaria, but he added that Benin's government must help by educating its citizens about prevention.
"We cannot succeed, however, unless there is an administration that is willing and capable to do the hard work necessary to educate people and spread nets and insecticides necessary to deal with a disease that can be defeated," Bush said.
The program, known as the President's Malaria Initiative, is a five-year, $1.2 billion (€910 million) effort that challenges the private sector to join the U.S. government in combating malaria in 15 of the hardest-hit African nations.
Angola, Tanzania and Uganda were the first three countries in the program, followed by Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal.
At least one million infants and children under five in sub-Saharan Africa die each year from malaria.
The president's wife, Laura Bush, also urged American school children to donate $10 (€7.60) each to buy insecticide-treated mosquito nets to help save the lives of African children.
"If a child can give $10 in the United States they can save the life of a child in Africa, and I think that's an especially sweet and direct way to reach people in Africa," Mrs. Bush told CBS television's "The Early Show."
"This is a disease that's preventable," Mrs. Bush said. "We've eradicated it in the United States generations ago, so people don't even really have a memory of it."
Malaria is among the world's major killers. It sickens up to half a billion people and kills more than a million every year. Most of the dead are African children.
The U.S. project is the second major initiative this week announced to combat malaria.
On Tuesday, the World Bank doubled its commitment to the fight against malaria with a $180 million (€136.5 million) in interest-free loans to Nigeria, one of the disease's main target areas.
The Washington-based bank said malaria strikes about 110 million Nigerians a year from a population of more than 130 million. The bank said almost 29 percent of Nigerian children's deaths and 11 percent of deaths among pregnant women are caused by malaria.
The goal of the five-year Nigerian project is to cut the incidence of the disease in Africa's most populous country in half by 2010.
Previously, the bank had committed $177 million (€134.2 million) to its Booster Program for Malaria Control in Africa, covering several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.