Convinced that faith-based groups are uniquely positioned to fight one of the world's deadliest killers, the Bush administration wants to strengthen partnerships with charitable organizations battling malaria.

"It's really about expanding services," said Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI). Hein said the administration wants to learn how to better address global health needs through new public-private partnerships, including those with faith-based organizations.

Each year, malaria kills more than 1 million people worldwide and infects more than 500 million, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Children younger than 5 years old and pregnant women are most vulnerable to the preventable and treatable disease.

The $1.2 billion President's Malaria Initiative includes $30 million in grant money to fund new partnerships with indigenous faith-based charities.

Anne Peterson, senior health adviser for World Vision, which has been fighting malaria for nearly 20 years, said she believes the administration's plan will work.

"They've chosen a comprehensive approach that's not just focused on treatments, but also on prevention," said Peterson. "In Africa, faith-based organizations provide more of the [health] care than the government does, between 40 and 70 percent. In many countries, the quality services are often coming from faith-based and community-based organizations."

A Gallup World Poll, announced at a Compassion in Action roundtable on malaria in Africa, sponsored by the OFBCI in February, revealed that 76 percent of Africans had more confidence in religious organizations than in other social and political institutions, including the military, financial and health systems, and the national ...

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