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First lady to visit Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, Egypt in October

September 26, 2018
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First lady Melania Trump speaks during a reception at the United States mission to the United Nations, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

NEW YORK (AP) — Melania Trump plans to emphasize child welfare in Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt in October on her first extended solo international mission. The trip will also be the first ever to the vast African continent by America’s Slovenia-born first lady.

She discussed the trip Wednesday at a reception for the spouses of foreign leaders and others participating in the annual U.N. General Assembly.

“Oct. 1 will mark the first day of my solo visit to four beautiful and very different countries in Africa,” Mrs. Trump said during brief remarks to several dozen guests attending the event near U.N. headquarters.

She said she looks forward to spreading the message of her “Be Best” child-welfare initiative. She launched the campaign in May to focus on overall child well-being, with an emphasis on opioid addiction and online behavior.

The countries on her itinerary work closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is helping organize the trip, she said.

“Whether it is education, drug addiction, hunger, online safety or bullying, poverty or disease, it is too often children who are hit first, and hardest, across the globe,” Mrs. Trump said. “Each of us hails from a country with its own unique challenges, but I know in my heart we are united by our commitment to raising the next generation to be happy, healthy and morally responsible adults.”

She offered no details on her activities in each country during the trip, which spans the first week of October.

The first ladies of Ghana, Malawi and Kenya attended the event and Mrs. Trump recognized each one individually. The first lady of Kenya accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House in August and she and Mrs. Trump met separately from their spouses.

Mark Green, chief of the international development agency, said its maternal and child health programs have helped save the lives of 4.6 million children worldwide, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The agency also works on increasing young people’s access to education. He said African primary school enrollment rates increased from 61 percent to 79 percent between 2000 and 2014.

“That excites the recovering teacher in me very, very much,” quipped Green, who spoke before Mrs. Trump. Green was a volunteer teacher in Kenya before he was elected to represent Wisconsin in the House and served as U.S. ambassador to Tanzania.

Mrs. Trump will travel next week without President Donald Trump, who raised ire across Africa this year after his private complaint about the continent’s “s-hole countries” was leaked to journalists. Trump later offered a partial denial in public but privately defended his remarks, The Associated Press reported in January. Trump also didn’t deny the comment when he was asked about it while hosting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the White House in April.

The president further roiled South Africa by subsequently claiming on Twitter that the nation is seizing farms and that high numbers of its farmers are being killed, after he saw a Fox News segment about land issues there. While killings of farmers have been taking place for more than 20 years and are widely seen as part of South Africa’s high crime rate, experts say white farmers have not been the target. Nor are there signs of widespread killings.

Trump said earlier Wednesday that he and his wife “love Africa.”

While the first lady is carrying out her goodwill mission, the president is expected to be in the midst of aggressive campaigning for November elections in which his Republican Party’s control of both houses of Congress is at stake.

Her only other solo international foray was a September 2017 day trip to Toronto to join Britain’s Prince Harry at an athletic competition he founded for wounded service members and veterans, a constituency both the president and Mrs. Trump say they value.

She has accompanied Trump to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Brussels, France, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Finland for a July summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. She did not travel with him to Singapore in June for a similar meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un due to medical restrictions on her travel following kidney surgery in mid-May.

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Superville reported from Washington.

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Follow Jennifer Peltz and Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jennpeltz and http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

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