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  • Mothers breastfeed their babies, as part of the celebration for World Breastfeeding Week, at Lovers Park in Bogota, Colombia.

    Mothers breastfeed their babies, as part of the celebration for World Breastfeeding Week, at Lovers Park in Bogota, Colombia. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 July 2018

A 2016 study published in The Lancet which "found that universal breastfeeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe." 

A shocking report has revealed that in a clear intervention in favor of infant formula manufacturers, the United States government of Donald Trump threatened Ecuador over a breastfeeding resolution at the United Nations saying that it will levy trade sanctions against the South American country if it did not drop it.

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The resolution was expected to pass in spring at a meeting of the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly in Geneva. "If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced," the New York Times report stated.  

Following the U.S. intervention, health advocates tried to find another sponsor for the resolution, but reports suggest, many countries who could benefit from the move in Africa and Latin America backed off, fearing Washington's wrath, officials from Uruguay, Mexico, and the United States told the newspaper.

A Russian delegate introduced the breast-feeding resolution, calling it a matter of principle.  “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,” said the delegate, according to the New York Times. 

Health advocates said that such actions by the United States were blackmail and deeply troubling as they hold the world hostage for the sake of corporations.

"We are upset that the democratic processes that should kick in at the WHA, and have kept the WHA true to its constitutional mandate, were absent,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the International Baby Food Action Network, a global advocacy group, the News Deeply reported. "All the member states needed to have a say. The U.S. didn’t need to have a bigger say."  

“With respect to news published in the United States on this date, the Public Ministry reiterates that Ecuador maintains its public policy of promoting and protecting breastfeeding without variation as the exclusive food for newborns up to 6 months,” a statement by the Ecuadorean health ministry said Monday reacting to the report and denying backing off from the resolution under U.S. pressure.

“Ecuador always endorsed all resolutions on breastfeeding that have been adopted in the past in the framework of the World Health Organization (WHO), the last, last month of May, was approved by consensus and had the support of the delegation Ecuadorian meeting."

According to a 2016 study published in The Lancet "found that universal breastfeeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield $300 billion in savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for those reared on breast milk," the New York Times reported.  

Scientists are loath to carry out double-blind studies that would provide one group with breast milk and another with breast milk substitutes. “This kind of ‘evidence-based’ research would be ethically and morally unacceptable,” Ms. Sterken said. 


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