Monday, July 09, 2018

Profits Before Health

Trump threatened Ecuador with trade sanctions if it introduces a United Nations resolution to encourage breastfeedingThe US  had supposedly asked for language asking governments to “protect, promote, and support breastfeeding” to be removed. The resolution ultimately passed but not before world health officials were shocked at the behaviour of the US delegation at the May UN World Health Assembley in Geneva.

Ecuadorians, facing having important military aid from the US rescinded on top of harsh sanctions on critical goods, backed down. The US also reportedly threatened to cut its contributions to the World Health Organisation - the US contributes almost 15 per cent of the agency's budget or $845m last year - if the resolution was introduced and passed. In light of the threat on Ecuador, other poorer countries in Latin America and Africa refused to introduce the resolution out of fear of American retaliation which left Russia to push it through. 

 Russia stepped up to back and help pass the resolution because they felt  “it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world".

The delegation was also opposed to another section of the resolution which called on countries to curtail promotion of products that medical experts agreed could cause harm to children according to more than a dozen delegates to the health meeting, the majority of whom "requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the US." Though US efforts were unsuccessful since the bulk of the original wording survived two whole days of procedural talks, language calling for “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children" to end was removed due to US efforts. 

The US was asking to have the language removed as a sign of support for the $70bn infant formula industry which relies on mothers not exclusively breastfeeding.

Patti Rundall, policy director for UK-based advocacy group Baby Milk Action said what the US did was "tantamount to blackmail". She said it "holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health".

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