June 5, 2008 / 7:30 PM / 11 years ago

Bush pushes G8 countries on disease aid for Africa

WASHINGTON, June 5 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday pressed fellow rich nations to make good on their pledges to provide $60 billion to help African countries combat diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The Group of Eight industrialized nations promised the money at their summit in Germany last year but set no timetable for disbursing the funds, raising some questions about the commitment to help the world’s poorest continent.

"At the last G8, our partners stood up and made strong commitments to help Africa deal with malaria and HIV/AIDS," Bush said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the U.S. Institute of Peace. "They have yet to make good on their commitments."

"I will remind them it’s one thing to make a promise, it’s another thing to write the check," he said, referring to the upcoming G8 meeting in Japan in July. "The American government expects our partners to live up to their obligations."

A White House spokesperson said the United States was current with its share of the money pledged last year.

Bush’s effort to draw attention and aid for combating diseases in Africa has been one of the widely hailed successes of his foreign policy agenda, which has been dominated by criticism of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Earlier this year Bush proposed doubling to $30 billion over five years his signature foreign aid program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Launched in 2003, it provides for programs and drugs in 15 countries — 12 in Africa plus Vietnam, Guyana and Haiti.

There are 33 million people worldwide infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, with two-thirds of them in sub-Saharan Africa, according to U.N. estimates.

In April lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure expanding funding for the AIDS relief, tuberculosis and malaria programs to $50 billion.

In June 2005 Bush launched a $1.2 billion, 5-year plan to reduce deaths caused by malaria by 50 percent in 15 African countries.

During Bush’s trip to Africa in February, he unveiled a plan, in conjunction with the World Bank, to distribute 5.2 million insecticide-treated bed nets to protect infants in Tanzania. Mosquito bites are a primary way malaria is spread. (Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by David Alexander and David Wiessler)

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