Sunday, July 13, 2003

Bush in Africa: Continue momentum

Agenda has been set

President George W. Bush's five-day, five-nation trip to Africa last week was extraordinary in that it focused attention on the long-neglected continent and signaled hope the United States will be an engaged partner to help the country improve itself.

Other countries with vested interests in a successful Africa can join together with the United States to help Africa reach its vast potential through trade, improvements in health care and forgiving debt.

Bush's trip is can signal a new beginning for U.S. foreign policy by partnering with African countries truly committed to reform while helping address critical health issues.

Most significant, Bush pledged more that $15 billion dollars in new money to combat the AIDS and HIV, which threatens to destabilize the entire continent.

During his State of the Union Address, Bush made his support for Africa clear. In May he signed the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS Act, which would authorize $15 billion over five years to help fight AIDS in Africa.

Sadly, while Bush was in Africa, a House panel approved only $2 billion of the $3 billion Bush wanted to fund the first year of the plan.

That is not acceptable. Congress must not hesitate and it must approve the amount in total. There is the humanitarian aspect - the saving hundreds of thousands of lives - but an Africa destabilized by pandemic illness makes the continent vulnerable to terrorist organizations. After 9/11, we can't risk that.

The money would be used right now to build clinics, train workers to take care of AIDS orphans, and purchase medicine among other uses.

Now that Africa is engaged, strategies that will help the continent right itself - from monetary help, to diplomacy - must been seen to its fruition.

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