U.S. first lady Melania Trump is in Ghana at the start of a tour of Africa — her first major solo international trip since her husband became president.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) October 1, 2018
The first lady landed in Ghana Tuesday morning and visited the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, where she saw babies being weighed and passed out blankets and teddy bears donated by the White House.
Mrs. Trump then went to the presidential palace for a private tea with Ghana’s first lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo.
Focus on child welfare
The White House says her trip — which will also take her to Malawi, Kenya and Egypt — will “focus on maternal and newborn care in hospitals, education for children, the deep culture and history woven into each African country, and how the United States is supporting each country on its journey to self-reliance.”
Child welfare has been the focus of Mrs. Trump’s “Be Best” campaign launched earlier this year.
Her five-day trip could be complicated by the actions and words of her husband, who has referred to Africa in vulgar terms.
Judd Devermont, the Africa program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Melania Trump has “some heavy lifting to do on this trip and it’s a little bit unfair because that’s not what a first lady’s trip should be about.”
Joshua Meservey, a senior Africa policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, however, believes President Trump’s behavior will not affect the first lady’s Africa visit.
“I think the U.S.-Africa relationship is much bigger than the president’s comments, and it’s been going on for decades and decades.” Meservey added, “Frankly, I suspect the vast majority of average Africans have not heard of any of those dust-ups. It’s very much an elite preoccupation.”
In fiscal 2015, USAID and the U.S. Department of State provided more than $8 billion in assistance to 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
USAID programs in Africa were slated for significant cuts in the Trump administration’s proposed budget but have been blocked by Congress.
Previous first ladies
Melania Trump is following in the footsteps of other first ladies who have visited the African continent. Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama traveled to the continent multiple times.
Their son, Barron, will not be on the trip and will remain focused on his studies and soccer, per the first lady’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham.
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