Photo: George W. Bush Institute
Dallas Morning News: Bringing Africa Back to Life:
LUSAKA, Zambia — On a beautiful Saturday morning, Delfi Nyankombe stood among her bracelets and necklaces at a churchyard bazaar and pondered a question: What do you think of George W. Bush?
“George Bush is a great man,” she answered. “He tried to help poor countries like Zambia when we were really hurting from AIDS. He empowered us, especially women, when the number of people dying was frightening. Now we are able to live.”
Nyankombe, 38, is a mother of three girls. She also admires the former president because of his current campaign to corral cervical cancer. Few are screened for the disease, and it now kills more Zambian women than any other cancer.
“By the time a woman knows, she may need radiation or chemotherapy that can have awful side effects, like fistula,” she said. “This is a big problem in Zambia, and he’s still helping us.”
The debate over a president’s legacy lasts many years longer than his term of office. At home, there’s still no consensus about the 2001-09 record of George W. Bush, with its wars and economic turmoil.
In Africa, he’s a hero.
“No American president has done more for Africa,” said Festus Mogae, who served as president of Botswana from 1998 to 2008. “It’s not only me saying that. All of my colleagues agree.”
AIDS was an inferno burning through sub-Saharan Africa. The American people, led by Bush, checked that fire and saved millions of lives.
People with immune systems badly weakened by HIV were given anti-retroviral drugs that stopped the progression of the disease. Mothers and newborns were given drugs that stopped the transmission of the virus from one generation to the next. Clinics were built. Doctors and nurses and lay workers were trained. A wrenching cultural conversation about sexual practices broadened, fueled by American money promoting abstinence, fidelity and the use of condoms.
“We kept this country from falling off the edge of a cliff,” said Mark Storella, the U.S. ambassador to Zambia. “We’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives. We’ve assisted over a million orphans. We’ve created a partnership with Zambia that gives us the possibility of walking the path to an AIDS-free generation. This is an enormous achievement.”
Bush remains active in African health. Last September, he launched a new program — dubbed Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon — to tackle cervical and breast cancer among African women. The program has 14 co-sponsors, including the Obama administration.