President Donald Trump’s administration has recently been at odds with the rest of the world, whether it is the Iran nuclear deal, climate change or relationship with its European allies, the U.S. government has not seen eye to eye with most of the world lately.
And it is time to add another, however unlikely, issue to the growing list of things United States opposes the world for: breastfeeding.
A resolution which encouraged mothers to breastfeed infants, because of its scientifically proven benefits, was supposed to be easily approved by hundreds of delegates at the World Health Assembly. However, the U.S. weighed in, siding with the infant formula manufacturers, so much so, they threatened Ecuador with a trade war over opposition, according to a New York Times report.
The resolution sought to curb false advertisement of breast milk substitutes as better options and asked governments to publicly encourage breastfeeding, which has been proven to be healthier for the child’s growth.
The resolution seemed more than reasonable; apparently not to the U.S. delegates.
According to the NYT report, the United States first sought to “water down” the language of the document but immediately after, resorted to unabashed threats if any nation was to oppose their proposed changes.
The first nation to face these threats was Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure. The U.S. not only threatened them with sanctions but also withdrawing military aid. The nation, reluctantly, but quietly backed away.
After that, the U.N. struggled to find another sponsor for the resolution, with many poor countries refusing to step forward, fearing retaliation from the U.S.
“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended meetings of the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, since decades.
“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health,” she said.
Finally, it was Russia who decided to step up as the sponsor. However, they faced no such threats as Ecuador from the United States. Although with slightly altered language, the resolution was finally approved.
The Department of Health and Human Services defended its decision to back infant formula manufacturers but refused to admit they threatened Ecuador.
“We recognize not all women are able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so,” a spokesman told The New York Times.
While the HHS department’s reasoning independently makes sense, all mothers definitely cannot breastfeed for various reasons, it should be noted the resolution did not make it necessary to do so. It only sought for regulations on infant formula manufacturers so that they won’t lie to the public and to emphasize on the importance and proven benefits of breastfeeding.
While attendees were shocked at the U.S.’ fierce support of the infant formula manufacturing industry, it was only one of the many questionable positions taken by the Trump administration during that same assembly.
The U.S. leaders fought unsuccessfully to deprive poor countries access to life-saving medication and were able to get statements supporting the removal of soda taxes from guidelines of the countries struggling with increasing obesity rates.
Even though, it is sad and appalling the United States would side with industries rather than the well-being of children and poor nations, it is hardly shocking anymore.
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