By Jennifer Harter, Communications Associate
It was a gathering of the most powerful organizations in the global fight against malaria in one of the most powerful places in the world.
And Christian Children's Fund (CCF) was among those invited to the White House on Wednesday for Malaria Awareness Day.
The Vice President for Global Programs at CCF, Michelle Poulton visited the White House on the organization's behalf for a key event in President Bush's efforts to fight malaria.
Poulton attended the luncheon in the White House Rose Garden for Malaria Awareness Day in conjunction with the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI). Poulton was among approximately 150 guests including PMI coordinator Admiral Tim Ziemer, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz and UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman.
The event marked the first time the White House has celebrated Malaria Awareness Day alongside observances elsewhere in the world.
Each guest left the White House on Wednesday with a signed proclamation from President Bush, declaring April 25, 2007 as Malaria Awareness Day and encouraging Americans to "love a neighbor and join in our goal of eradicating malaria on the African continent."
In 2005, Bush undertook a five-year, $1.2 billion effort that challenges the private sector to join the U.S. government in combating malaria in the hardest-hit African nations. The goal is to decrease the malaria mortality rate by half in targeted nations.
CCF was asked to organize the PMI in Senegal, attached to a $12.8 million community health grant. The organization is the lead in a consortium with other international NGOs, including Plan, World Vision, Africare, Catholic Relief Services and Counterpart.
Although CCF's programs were not directly mentioned during the speeches delivered by Laura and President Bush on Wednesday, Poulton said a CCF Health Hut in Senegal was referenced. Laura Bush has referenced CCF's efforts by name on several other occasions.
Poulton expects CCF's involvement to remain strong and the awareness of the organization's work to increase.
"There's no doubt that we actually have a high profile in the PMI," Poulton said. "This opens up a lot of opportunities for other CCF countries where PMI will be starting or is starting."
Angola, Tanzania and Uganda were the first three countries in the program, followed by Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal. In December, eight countries were added: Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali and Zambia.
Laura Bush announced Wednesday that the PMI would provide 500,000 bed nets to the most vulnerable households in Zambia. In addition to the efforts in Zambia, the president said the cooperation with Uganda is being expanded to also hand out 500,000 nets.
And while Wednesday's event was serious, it was an enjoyable time for Poulton - although she left the dancing to President Bush.
At the end of the day, Poulton and the other guests watched President Bush dance and pound the drums along with the KanKouran West African Dance Company.
The dance was a light way to end an event marking a very serious topic.
"It was really fun to be at the White House," Poulton said of her first White House visit. "No roses, of course, at this time of the year, but plenty of tulips and pansies."