Trump administration threatened Ecuador over its support of breastfeeding resolution

10 July, 2018, 16:00 | Author: Carlos George
  • Ric Francis via ZUMA

USA officials threatened Ecuador with punitive trade measures after the country introduced an worldwide resolution that encouraged breastfeeding during a global health conference, according to The New York Times.

US officials allegedly threatened to withhold military aid and to impose trade sanctions on that Latin American country if it did not drop the resolution.

The U.S. then continued around the table, targeting at least a dozen, mostly underdeveloped countries in Latin America and Africa, who backed off fearing retaliation, according to delegates from Mexico, Uruguay and the U.S.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding" and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

On Twitter, Mr Trump "called out" the Times and said the "US strongly supports breastfeeding".

"The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children", a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told The Times in an email.

The Trump administration appeared to side with companies manufacturing infant formulas whose sales are threatened by women breastfeeding their newborns. The U.S. provides about 15 percent of WHO's budget, at $845 million.

It was only when Russian Federation introduced the resolution that American officials backed off. 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.

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The New York Times report mirrored sweeping and unattributed claims from activist groups.

Government doctors and scientists have long called attention to the health benefits of breastfeeding, both in economically advanced countries and developing nations.

Hundreds of government delegates at the assembly expected the resolution to be approved swiftly.

'We're not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that 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 diplomat said.

"The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding", HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement.

The United States suggested a shorter and more streamlined resolution that encouraged promoting exclusive breastfeeding as well as global initiatives to encourage breastfeeding in hospitals. What is at stake: breastfeeding saves women and children's lives. Breastfeeding rates vary by country, but two out of three infants worldwide are not breastfed for the recommended six months and this rate has not improved in several decades, according to a WHO, UNICEF and International Baby Food Action Network report from 2016.

Breast milk is better than formula and reduces infant mortality and morbidity.

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