President Trump denies U.S. opposition to World Health Organization breastfeeding resolution

US turned to threats to fight breast-feeding resolution report


With the financial interests of infant-formula manufacturers as its purported motivation, the US delegation at a meeting of the United Nations -affiliated World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva in May tried to weaken a widely supported resolution calling for governments to support breast-feeding, the New York Times' Andrew Jacobs reports.

The New York Times reported using anonymous sources that the USA had even threatened some countries that supported the resolution with punitive actions if they didn't withdraw support.

Officials from the US, Uruguay, and Mexico said that at least a dozen other countries-many of which are poor countries in Africa and Latin America-dropped the resolution after the US sucked away their interest.

The U.S. delegation introduced a "draft decision" at the World Health Assembly in May that was far less binding and powerful than the resolution Ecuador had been drafting, sources said.

USA officials made threats to Ecuador in an attempt to water down a resolution in support of breastfeeding, according to a report in The New York Times.

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But Trump said that the Times left out some crucial information: namely, that the administration supports breastfeeding, but that it doesn't want to limit women's access to formula when they need it.

Lucy Sullivan, the executive director of 1,000 Days, which promotes nutrition for children and women, told NPR that she does not agree the text would have reduced access to formula.

He added that although the group didn't find negative effects on infant mortality on populations with clean water, that "doesn't mean there's no difference between breast milk and formula". Similar approaches have been successful in refugee camps, for instance, as well as in post-earthquake Ecuador-which is one of only 23 countries where more than 60% of children under six months are exclusively breastfed.

A proposal to promote breastfeeding was met with unexpected contention by American delegates at the World Health Assembly in May.

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A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said to CNN, "The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding".

"The existence of infant formula is not in question here". The US has denied allegations it threatened any country during negotiations. When Ecuador backed off - after all, no small country likes to be in Washington's gun sights - the USA threatened any other country that might want to introduce it.

Standing in opposition to that revenue number are the health advocates who have fought for decades to increase breastfeeding everywhere and decrease misleading infant-formula marketing practices, particularly where lack of access to uncontaminated water can make using powdered formula life-threatening. According to the Times, the saga shows how the Trump administration backs corporations over the public good and how the Trump administration is disrupting the rules-based order.

"Breastfeeding also reduces the risk that mothers will become impoverished by their dependence on formula to feed their infants; formula is expensive and not always available to families in low-income settings", she said.

UNICEF and World Health Organization also recommend exclusive breastfeeding from within an hour of birth until the baby is 6 months old.

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