Melania Trump In Africa

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Melania Trump Opens Africa Visit With Smile, Baby In Arms

October 02, 2018 - 5:54 pm

ACCRA, Ghana (WCBS 880/AP) -- Melania Trump opened her first big solo international trip as U.S. first lady on Tuesday with a wave, a smile and a baby in her arms, aiming to promote child welfare during a five-day tour of Africa.

She arrived in the West African nation of Ghana after an overnight flight from Washington and quickly made her way to the Greater Accra Regional Hospital.

“She was greeted by the first lady of Ghana, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, and went promptly to a hospital to view the work of U.S. Aid, where she visited with new mothers, saw their babies, watched them being weighed, and also passed out little teddy bears and blankets emblazoned with her logo, ‘Be Best,” said CBS News Correspondent Debora Patta.

The first lady saw that babies are weighed by being placed in sacks that are then hung from a hook attached to a scale. She also watched a nurse demonstrate how vitamins are administered to babies by mouth and toured the neonatal intensive care unit.

Mrs. Trump also cradled an infant and declared the baby a "beautiful boy" as she handed him back to his mother.

Mothers at the hospital for her visit received gifts of teddy bears nestled in white baby blankets, personally handed out by the first lady, according to her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.

With the Africa visit, the first lady aims to take "Be Best" and its focus on opioid abuse and online behavior to an international audience.

The first lady also had a private tea with Mrs. Akufo-Addo. They exchanged gifts: a Chippendale silver tray embossed with an image of the White House inside a leather case signed by "First Lady Melania Trump" for Akufo-Addo, and Kente cloth and artifacts for Mrs. Trump, according to Grisham.

The first ladies met privately for about a half-hour at Jubilee House, Ghana's presidential palace. The two first met last week in New York at a reception on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where Mrs. Trump spoke about her upcoming trip.

Mrs. Trump's visit opened in low-key fashion. Several Ghanaians interviewed said they knew little about it.

"Did you say President Trump's wife just arrived in Accra?" street vendor Awo Yeboah asked. "I don't think I have ever heard her name, Melania."

Other locals said they knew about the visit but didn't know what Mrs. Trump was doing.

“It’s been very formal. The first lady of Ghana greeted here. There was dancers, singers – the usual kind of pomp and ceremony that would go with a visit like this. In the public arena, she is meeting people who seem interested and they passed comments like they didn’t expect her to be so easy; so warm,” Patta said.

But others still have not forgotten when President Trump reportedly referred to countries in Africa and elsewhere in the world as “s***hole countries.”

“On the streets, when you talk to people, her visit is being viewed with somewhat of raised eyebrows. You will remember, of course, at the beginning of the year, her husband, President Trump, made rather disparaging remarks about the African continent, referring to African nations in very disparaging terms, and that insult has not been forgotten by many here,” Patta said.

Mrs. Trump landed in the capital, Accra, on Tuesday morning after a more than 12-hour journey from Washington. She was welcomed at the airport with dancing and drumming, schoolchildren waving mini U.S. and Ghanaian flags and the gift of a flower bouquet. Akufo-Addo was at the airport to welcome her.

President Donald Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday that he saw television footage of her landing in Africa.

"It was beautiful," he said. "She's really doing a great job as first lady."

The president later tweeted: "Proud of our great First Lady - and she loves doing this!"

Mrs. Trump also plans to visit Malawi, Kenya and Egypt.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)