Friday, 16 November, 2018

Trump blasts 'fake' NYT story on USA opposition to breastfeeding measure

Bloomberg via Getty Images Bloomberg via Getty Images
Deanna Wagner | 10 July, 2018, 04:15

- The U.S. opposed a World Health Assembly resolution to encourage breastfeeding because it called for limits on the promotion of infant formula, not because of objections to breastfeeding, President Donald Trump tweeted Monday.

Hundreds of government delegates at the assembly expected the resolution to be approved swiftly. The position of the U.S. is aligned with infant formula manufacturers (the USA dominates the $70 billion industry, which has been on the downturn in wealthier nations in the last few years as more women are breastfeeding), and, unsurprisingly, was a complete about-turn from the Obama administration.

Mr. Trump said the country "strongly supports" breastfeeding, but the issue the US representatives had was with denying access to formula.

The Times reported that the USA effort this spring during the United Nations -affiliated world health meeting was largely unsuccessful and that most of the original wording remained.

Ecuador, which was slated to introduce the resolution, was the first country targeted by American officials. But the USA reportedly threatened the country with punitive trade measures and a cut to military aid if it did not drop the proposal.

An Ecuadorian official said that his government did not anticipate the harshness of America's response. Other nations didn't want to take it up afterwards, fearing "retaliation". The measure was introduced, however, once Russian Federation stepped in.

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The United States tried to halt the resolution by pressuring Ecuador, which initially sponsored it, by dropping out. The resolution ended up passing, though the US did succeed in getting the language altered slightly.

In an email to the Times, the Department of Health and Human Services, which led the charge to make the modifications, said the original resolution "placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children".

'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".

The Trump administration shocked global health officials when it pushed back on decades of scientific research that recognized breast milk as the healthiest option for babies.

In addition to the trade threats, an Ecuadorean government official told the Times the USA threatened to withdrawal military support from northern Ecuador, where violence from boarding Colombia causes ongoing issues. 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. It also pushed, successfully, to get statements supporting soda taxes removed from guidelines for countries dealing with skyrocketing obesity rates.