Trump defends reported US attempt to undermine WHO breastfeeding measures

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US President Donald Trump has defended US efforts to reportedly undermine a World Health Organisation (WHO) measure in support of breastfeeding, reports BBC News. A New York Times report claimed US officials fought against language that all governments should “protect, promote and support breastfeeding”. The report alleges that the US threatened countries over the resolution, which eventually passed. According to BBC News, a US government spokesperson called the reports “patently false”. And on Twitter, Trump “called out” the NYT and said the “US strongly supports breastfeeding”.

BBC News reports that the NYT report was based on interviews with dozens of meeting participants, US negotiators in Geneva objected to the resolution encouraging breastfeeding around the world and allegedly resorted to intimidation tactics to bully other countries into dropping it.

US officials allegedly sought to remove the language pushing for global government support of breastfeeding practices and attacked countries that were in favour of it. Ecuador had planned to introduce the Bill, but according to the newspaper, backed out after they were threatened with punishing trade measures and the withdrawal of US military aid.

Officials also reportedly threatened to cut US aid to the WHO – over $118m this year, which amounts to roughly 15% of the organisation’s annual budget.

The report says the resolution was passed when it was introduced by Russia, but the US did successfully strike out language calling for WHO support to nations trying to prevent “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children” and added the phrase “evidence based” to certain provisions.

The report says the WHO has long supported breastfeeding, and years of research has found breast milk to be healthier than other substitutes. Baby formula companies have for decades sold more product in developing countries than developed ones, the NYT reported, suggesting the US policy was in line with companies’ interests.

The US State Department has refused to comment on the report but, the report says, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defended the US delegation’s approach. “The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding,” HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said.

“The US was fighting to protect women’s abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies.

“Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons and these women should not be stigmatised; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies.”

BBC News report

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