In Tanzania, Bush Touts U.S. Role in Reducing Malaria Deaths

President Bush, savoring his healer-in-chief role, spent Monday promoting U.S. aid to Africa where a mere mosquito bite can be fatal.

On his second day in Tanzania, Bush moved from the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam to the northern highlands of Arusha, an area known as a cradle of African safari adventure.

Bush landed here, in sight of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, and was greeted by Massai women dancers who wore purple robes and white discs around their necks. The president joined their line and enjoyed himself, but held off on dancing.

His theme is the prevention of malaria, a parasitic disease that is particularly lethal to young children and pregnant women.

Bush and first lady Laura Bush began the day touring a hospital and later planned to visit a mill that makes mosquito bed nets.

Meanwhile, on Bush's direction, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was headed north from Tanzania into Kenya to try to help push forward deadlocked peace talks. A disputed presidential election there led to a wave of violence just ahead of Bush's trip.

Bush is in the midst of a six-day stay in Africa. The public mission of his travels is to improve health on an impoverished continent. The underlying one is to preserve his initiatives beyond his presidency and cement humanitarianism as a key part of his legacy.

Bush launched a plan in 2005 to dramatically reduce malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, the worst affected region in the world. More than 80 percent of malaria cases happen here. The disease kills at least 1 million infants and children under five every year.

That's a foreign concept in the United States, which eradicated malaria decades ago.

Bush's initiative has helped more than 25 million people. It is one of several global efforts that have combined to sharply reduce malaria deaths in African countries.

Congress so far has put $425 million toward Bush's $1.2 billion, five-year program.

Tanzania is one of 15 countries that benefit through the distribution of live-saving medicines, insecticide spraying and bed nets that keep mosquitoes away at night.

Those bed nets, which cost about $10, have long-lasting insecticide. The Bushes are touring a plant where nets are woven, hung on hooks for inspection and bagged for shipment.

The U.S. drive to spend money on the health of Africans, including a much larger effort on HIV/AIDS, is appreciated here. In a recent Pew Research Center report, African countries held more favorable views of the U.S. than any others in the world. And Bush, the face of the U.S. superpower, is showered with praise wherever he goes. It seems a world away from the sentiment at home, where his public approval is at 30 percent.

The reception is such that Bush balked when a U.S. reporter suggested that Africans are abuzz about Barack Obama, the black Democratic presidential candidate whose father was Kenyan.

"It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me, wait a minute," Bush said Sunday in Tanzania. "Maybe you missed it."