Babies not Obama fans

2009-07-11 18:31
Accra - Protocol says you stand when the president walks into a room. But for a handful of pregnant women, President Barack Obama was willing to make an exception.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama highlighted prenatal health during a programme on Saturday at La General Hospital in Ghana. When the first couple joined the group, many of the visibly pregnant women stood.

"Maybe all the mothers can sit down," Obama said.

Obama told a few reporters on hand for the visit that such prenatal counselling is important to reduce infant mortality rates. Ghana declared infant mortality an emergency last year.

'Nobody's giving birth now right?'

One concern of no-drama Obama during the visit seemed to be keeping the excitement to a minimum.

"Nobody's going to have a baby right now, right?" he called out as he walked up to the group of about 20 expectant women.

Obama, in shirt sleeves, and first lady Michelle Obama visited the hospital before his address to Parliament.

The hospital focuses on prenatal care, HIV testing for pregnant women, improved labour and delivery services, afterbirth care and nutritional counselling, and gets assistance from the US Agency for International Development.

Highlight of the trip

The Obamas toured several areas of the clinic, meeting more mothers and babies as they went.

"This is the highlight of the trip. Look at these cuties," Obama said of the babies. He hoisted a couple of the children and leaned over cribs, and down, to greet the others. One seemed frightened and began to cry.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

Mrs Obama then took the child in her arms. That calmed the baby for a bit - before she fled to her mother.

But Obama wasn't taking any responsibility for frightening the child.

"I think it's the reporters who are scary," he joked about the media contingent that follows his every public move. "They scare me all the time."

For a politician, Obama seemed to be striking out with the babies.

On a subsequent part of the hospital tour, he lifted up another young one - who also was crying.

"She wants to make a speech - to Parliament," the president joked.

And while Obama is used to getting standing ovations, what is not so familiar to him is a blasting trombone.
As he took the podium for a speech to Ghana's Parliament, someone in the rear of the convention hall bleated out raw tones. Obama took a few moments to take it all in.

"I like this," Obama said, noting his reception by US lawmakers doesn't come close. "I think Congress needs one of those horns."

- SAPA
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