United States delegates sought to weaken a World Health Assembly resolution encouraging breast-feeding this spring, the New York Times reported Sunday, backing the interests of infant-formula manufacturers instead. But the US reportedly threatened the country with punitive trade measures and a cut to military aid if it did not drop the proposal. At least a dozen countries in Africa and Latin America reportedly declined to support the measure over fears of retaliation.
The Russian delegation eventually stepped in to introduce the measure, with no push-back from the U.S. But the US insisted on removing language calling on the World Health Organization to offer technical support to officials trying to stop "inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children", according to the Times.
When contacted for a comment, the Department of Health and Human Services said the US stance was in support of mothers who can not breast-feed for various reasons. With more first world mothers opting for Mother Nature's way, most of the industry's modest growth comes from developing countries.
"And now the U.S. Gov is against breastfeeding in favor of formula companies", a DailyKos story blared. Washington is the single largest contributor to the health organisation, providing US$845 million, or roughly 15 per cent of its budget, last year.
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".
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"The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding", Caitlin Oakley, national spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. The resolution, which was based on decades of scientific research, encouraged countries to limit false or deceptive advertising of breast milk substitutes, and called on governments to publicly support breastfeeding.
Between 21 and 26 May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) held their 71st World Health Assembly, which is attended by delegates from all WHO member state and serves as that organization's primary decision-making body. Of course, it is in line with the general attitude of the United States, which has earlier opposed taxes on sugared drinks and attacked changes in licensing law proposed to deliver life-saving medicines in poor countries.
The Times says it spoke with more than a dozen participants at the assembly from several countries.
The United States tried to stop a pro-breastfeeding resolution at the United Nations, but ultimately failed.
The move reflected the U.S. government's championing of the $US70 billion ($94 billion) baby formula industry - mainly based in the U.S. and Europe.
Breast milk is better than formula and reduces infant mortality and morbidity. At first, the United States delegates attempted to simply dilute the pro-breastmilk message, voiding language that called for governments to "protect, promote, and support breastfeeding" and limit promotion of competing baby food products that experts warn can be harmful. What is at stake: breastfeeding saves women and children's lives.