Melania Trump Stops In Kenya On 4-Nation Solo Trip

Oct 5, 2018
Originally published on October 5, 2018 7:35 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

First lady Melania Trump has been touring the African continent. She's visiting four countries. She's mostly been focusing on conservation and children and families. NPR's Eyder Peralta caught up with the tour in Nairobi, Kenya.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELEPHANT TRUMPETING)

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: This has been a trip without politics. First lady Melania Trump has helped babies, and she's received flowers in Ghana, in Malawi. Now she's here in Nairobi at the David Sheldrick elephant and rhino orphanage. And let me tell you, there is nothing cuter than a baby elephant.

The babies have pretty terrible stories. A lot of them were found nearly dead because of drought. Others lost their moms to poachers. But they are adorable, bounding clumsily toward their morning snack. The first lady smiles broadly, watching the elephants gulp massive bottles of milk. Melania Trump makes no public statement. Her main point, her office has said, is to highlight the work of U.S. aid on the continent. But the words and policies of her husband have also cast a shadow.

President Trump has reportedly disparaged African countries, and his administration has loosened restrictions on importing trophies from big game hunting. They have also reinstituted a policy that bans aid from any organization that even talks about abortion.

NELLY MUNYASIA: For us, that was a blow to the organization because we didn't anticipate it, and we did not have any other donor.

PERALTA: Nelly Munyasia runs the Reproductive Health Network. In previous years, they provided 25,000 legal abortions in Kenya. And the need, she says, has not changed. But now...

MUNYASIA: They cannot get safe abortion services because we are not in a position to offer commodities and probably even train more health care providers in the marginalized regions.

PERALTA: Other organizations have lost funding to provide contraceptives and HIV counseling, but really, there is nothing like baby elephants to shift the focus from politics. Melania Trump bottle fed one of them, got bumped by another, and finally worked up the courage to pat one a few times on the head. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.