U.S. tries to bully World Health Organization into dropping breast-feeding resolution

Charlene Craig
July 10, 2018

US President Donald Trump has defended US efforts to reportedly undermine a World Health Organization (WHO) measure in support of breastfeeding.

The U.S. then continued around the table, targeting at least a dozen, mostly underdeveloped countries in Latin America and Africa, who backed off fearing retaliation, according to delegates from Mexico, Uruguay and the U.S. In fact, the WHO Code is primarily concerned with the misleading marketing of such products in ways that explicitly discourage breastfeeding as a choice, especially within poor communities, as The Guardian observed: "Formula promotion is a particular issue in poorer countries because there is a higher risk of pneumonia and diarrhoea for babies, and with a lack of access to healthcare mothers are less informed about the benefits of breastfeeding". Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty, ' he wrote on Twitter on Monday.

"What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the US holding the world hostage and trying to overturn almost 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health", The New York Times quoted her as saying.

The Times reported that the USA delegation threatened other nations, by suggesting that the US would implement trade measures with the objective of punishing them, citing more than a dozen participants from several of the countries present. The Department of Health and Human Services has since responded, saying the U.S delegation was advocating for a variety of feeding options because some women are unable to breastfeed.

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Eventually, it was Russian Federation that made a decision to introduce the measure.

Ecuador's Health Minister Veronica Espinosa said her country had fought for passage of the resolution and "did not give in to private or commercial interests, or any other form of pressure". Ecuador quickly dropped its support for the resolution.

The US State Department has refused to comment on the report.

During the same Geneva meeting where the breastfeeding resolution was debated, the United States succeeded in removing statements supporting soda taxes from a document that advises countries grappling with soaring rates of obesity.

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Every two years the World Health Assembly convenes and discusses public health issues.

Limiting inaccurate infant formula marketing is most necessary in some of the poorest parts of the world, according to a Guardian investigation published earlier this year in partnership with the worldwide nongovernmental organization Save the Children.

The United States tried to stop a pro-breastfeeding resolution at the United Nations, but ultimately failed. But a sustainable future will require certain industries - not just tobacco and fossil fuels, air travel and automobiles, even baby formula - to become much much smaller to sustain a population of nine billion human beings.

A 2016 report in the medical journal The Lancet estimated that 823,000 child deaths around the world could be prevented each year through universal breastfeeding.

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