Declaring that malaria can be defeated, President Bush on Thursday added eight countries to a U.S. initiative aimed at combatting the disease in Africa and slashing its mortality rate by half in targeted nations.

"Last year, about a million Africans died of malaria," Bush said. "The vast majority were children under five. Their lives ended by nothing more than a mosquito bite."

The new countries were announced at a White House summit 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. The additional countries are Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali and Zambia.

"By bringing together such a wide variety of people, the summit is sending a clear message that we are determined to defeat malaria," the president said.

"In this new century, there is a great divide between those who place no value on human life and rejoice in the suffering of others, and those who believe that every life has matchless value and answer suffering with compassion and kindness," he said. "The contrast is vivid, and the position of America is clear: We will lead the case of freedom, justice and hope, because both our value and our interests demand it."

Just before the summit, Bush told the president of Benin that the United States will commit resources, time and talent to help rid much of Africa of malaria, but added that Benin's government must help by educating its citizens on 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 effort that challenges the private sector to join the U.S. government in combatting malaria in 15 of the hardest-hit African nations. Congress has approved $30 million for the initiative, with another round of money expected in the upcoming budget.

Foundations, corporations and community groups are also committing money and volunteers.

Bush said more than 6 million people in Africa have benefited so far. The United States has a responsibility to help, Bush said, and "by helping others, the American people must understand we help ourselves."

"We're a nation that believes that we're fortunate, and that through our fortune we ought to help others," Bush said.

Angola, Tanzania and Uganda were the first three countries in the program, followed by Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal.

Each year, at least 1 million infants and children under five in sub-Saharan Africa die from malaria.

First lady Laura Bush also urged U.S. school children to donate $10 each to buy insecticide-treated mosquito nets to help save the lives of African children.

"By defeating malaria, the American people can help people in Africa enjoy greater prosperity and good health," the first lady said at the summit.