President Bush has received a major humanitarian award for his work
in Africa. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson has details.
The president is the latest recipient of the
Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Award - given each year to
leaders who have made a significant commitment to Africa.
President Bush was honored for his efforts throughout his administration to
combat disease across the continent. At the same time, he has expanded U.S.
development assistance through his Millennium Challenge initiative which links
aid to political and economic reforms.
He says America has an obligation to help the people of Africa. "It is in our
national security interest that we defeat hopelessness. It is in our economic
interest that we help economies grow. And it is in our moral interest that when
we find hunger and suffering, the United States of America responds in a robust
and effective way," he said.
The award was presented by the group Africare - which focuses attention on
the problems facing Africa, and coordinates programs in areas ranging from clean
water, to refugee relief.
Africare's annual dinner in Washington is one of the largest events held each
year in the United States for Africa - bringing together more than thousand of
international government and corporate leaders.
Mr. Bush told his audience that seeing the results of U.S. efforts to fight
disease and poverty in Africa first hand has been one of the most uplifting
experiences of his life.
He recalled a visit to a hospital in Tanzania that tests babies for malaria
and helps mothers obtain bed nets to keep away disease-carrying mosquitoes while
their children sleep. "I cannot tell you the expression of pride they had on
their face when they held their babies up and said, 'my baby is healthy.'
Nothing more hopeful than to see the joy on a mother's face, realizing that her
baby has escaped the scourge of the deadly disease of malaria," he said.
Mr. Bush said he is especially proud of his effort to provide treatment for
one-point-seven million people battling AIDS through PEPFAR - the President's
Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. He told the story of a South African mother
whose life was saved at a PEPFAR clinic. She later brought her son, Baron, to
the White House to bear witness as President Bush signed an extension of the
AIDS treatment program into law.
"Baron is a reminder of the many lives that have been touched and saved by
the compassion of the American people. And he represents the bright and
promising future awaiting the folks in Africa," he said.
The president also reflected on the past recipients of Africare's Walker
Award and said he is in very good company. They include former South African
President Nelson Mandela, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton,
and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.