MAPUTO (Reuters) - U.S. first lady Laura Bush announced on Wednesday $507 million in assistance would be approved for Mozambique to build roads and boost its battle with malaria, which kills about 150 Mozambicans each day.
“I‘m happy to be the one to tell you that, in just a few hours, the boards of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) will meet to approve a US$507 million compact with the government of Mozambique,” she said in Mozambique’s capital Maputo.
The MCC was established by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2004 to reward pro-business, democratic and progressive developing nations with aid and other assistance.
Laura Bush, who is on a four-nation tour of Africa, said the U.S. assistance would be targeted at strengthening property rights, improving roads and agriculture, and installing water wells to help provide clean water.
“The compact will help eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and by providing safe water for nearly 2 million people, the devastating toll of the water-borne disease including malaria would be reduced,” she told a gathering of religious groups that was also attended by journalists.
Laura Bush’s African trip follows a plan by the Bush administration announced in Germany this month to allocate an additional $30 billion to fight AIDS in Africa, a figure that would double the U.S. commitment to the continent.
The current program, which provided $15 billion, expires in September 2008.
Mozambique, which was wracked by a devastating 16-year civil war lasting from independence in 1976 to 1992, remains one of the world’s poorest nations, but the former Portuguese colony has become a model for economic reform.
An estimated 1.6 million Mozambicans are HIV-positive, and about 500 more people contract the virus daily.
Malaria, meanwhile, remains a scourge that kills about 150 Mozambicans, most of them children, every day, according to official figures.