Monday, 23 July, 2018

Trump administration threatened Ecuador over its support of breastfeeding resolution

Ric Francis via ZUMA Ric Francis via ZUMA
Leonard Rios | 11 July, 2018, 09:43

The United States and many countries around the world now abide by the International Code on Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, a health policy framework for promoting breastfeeding adopted in 1981.

The Times story, from reporter Andrew Jacobs, details how what was initially thought to be a non-controversial resolution, aimed at promoting breastfeeding, allegedly resulted in the US making threats to cut trade and withdraw some military aid from Ecuador.

US opposition to the resolution ended, however, when Russian Federation introduced the measure.

The State Department declined to comment.

Mr. Trump said the country "strongly supports" breastfeeding, but the issue the US representatives had was with denying access to formula. "Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty".

Health experts said the president's stance suggested a lack of knowledge about the issues.

President Trump rejected accusations on Monday from a New York Times report that said the US worked against a breastfeeding amendment at the World Health Assembly. It said, "The Americans did not threaten them".

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An HHS spokesperson added that the "resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children".

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies", Oakley said.

The resolution also called on world governments to crack down on marketing which says that substitute baby formulas are better and to 'protect, promote, and support breastfeeding'.

A 2016 study published by The Lancet says breastfeeding could save the lives of 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers each year.

Although the USA and many other countries promote a "breast is best" policy, many mothers are unable to breastfeed for a variety of reasons like medical challenges, insufficient maternity leave, or inability to afford time away from work often required for exclusive breastfeeding. However, the US was successful in removing language that said the World Health Organization would support countries trying to stop "inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children". Critics of the breast milk substitute industry contend that those companies use aggressive and potentially illegal marketing tactics that encourage mothers to abandon breastfeeding in favor of commercial products.

While Donald Trump is set to take to the skies over London in the form of an angry baby blimp, his administration has caused multilateral alarm by threatening to launch yet another trade war in Geneva, over breast milk. In a 2011 paper, US Department of Agriculture economists reported that three of those giants-Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Nestlé-own 98 percent of the US market-a figure echoed in a May 2018 New York Times Magazine exposé of black-market infant-formula sales here in the United States. The U.S. also unsuccessful lobbied to stop a World Health Organization initiative to give life-saving medicine to poor countries, siding with the pharmaceutical industry's intellectual property concerns. The report said the U.S. delegation was also unsuccessful at defeating a different measure on access to medicines.

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