France's former first lady Trierweiler finds distraction from break-up by visiting children's ward in India
Published 27/01/2014 | 13:51
In her first public appearance since being dumped by French president Francois Hollande, Valerie Trierweiler turned her attention to the less fortunate, cuddling and kissing children in a paediatric ward in India.
Ms Trierweiler arrived in Mumbai on Sunday evening on a long-planned trip that has provided the former first lady with an escape from the scandal. The trip with the aid group Action Against Hunger also gives her an opportunity to re-establish her own independence.
She has been the focus of intense interest after being hospitalised earlier this month with what aides described as shock and the blues following a tabloid's publication of photos it said proved Mr Hollande was having an affair with an actress.
On Saturday, he announced their seven-year relationship was over. They were not married.
In India Ms Trierweiler visited children in a public hospital in Mumbai and spoke to mothers about nutrition.
"I cannot stand that these children have fewer chances than others," said Ms Trierweiler, a journalist who has three children from a previous marriage. "We should give the same chances to all. We have (here) children who suffer from malnutrition. That is why I am here today."
The comments, in French, were her first public remarks since the scandal erupted. She did not discuss her relationship with Mr Hollande, and cancelled a planned visit to a Mumbai slum, though she retained plans for a gala dinner in conjunction with a charity.
After the hospital visit, she posted a photograph of a mother and child in a message on her Twitter account that read: "Alongside ACF (Action Against Hunger) in India to fight malnutrition. A child dies of hunger every 30 seconds."
She also posted a message thanking the staff of the French presidential palace for their "devotion."
Ms Trierweiler's chief of staff, Patrice Biancone, said that her office as first lady would be formally eliminated on Wednesday.
"These last few days have been difficult. But today, she is serene," he said.
The head of Action Against Hunger said Ms Trierweiler planned to commit herself to humanitarian work.
Meanwhile in France, Mr Hollande is facing a wave of discontent over his economic policies.
On Sunday 17,000 people marched through central Paris to denounce the country's high taxes, high unemployment and economic stagnation. His public approval rating stands at about 30%. More than 250 people were arrested and 19 police officers injured after the protest degenerated into violence.
In an interview published on Sunday and conducted before he split with Ms Trierweiler, Mr Hollande renewed his plea for privacy. He told Time magazine that "private life is always, at certain times, a challenge. And it has to be respected."
Hollande has never married. He and Ms Trierweiler became a couple in 2007, after he ended a more than a 20 year relationship with the mother of his four children, former presidential candidate Segolene Royal.