On June 7, the community editor of Malnutrition Deeply’s Amruta Byatnal reported about the attempt of the United Staes Government to derail a nonbinding resolution on breastfeeding at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.
Last week, I wrote about the politics of policy-making at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. The United States attempted to derail a resolution on breastfeeding from being passed, thus favoring private sector interests over health: https://t.co/pVXjINdodN #breastfeeding #WHA71
— Amruta Byatnal (@amrutabyatnal) June 11, 2018
What should have been a non-controversial discussion on breastfeeding turned rancorous at the recent World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.Advocates at the event have accused the U.S. delegation of trying to stop a resolution on infant and young child feeding from being introduced. The U.S. representatives later pushed for diluted text that removes references to regulating aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes.
The first draft was originally supported by Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Nepal, and contained several references to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which outlines what levels of marketing are acceptable while seeking to protect the health of infants and young children.
This opposition made its way to the WHA, where the U.S. delegation allegedly threatened countries with trade retaliation if they introduced the resolution, according to civil society advocates. Ecuador, which had led the drafting of the resolution, actually pulled out from introducing it.
The United States also attempted to stall this passage, advocates say, by suggesting an alternative text that omitted any reference to the WHO code or any of the text relating to specific guidance around inappropriate marketing of infants foods.
Reports say that the U.S. delegation was led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who reportedly declined requests to provide on-the-record comments to news deeply. Remember this is the same guy who told Congress that he could find separated kids with basic keystrokes.
“There is no reason why any parent would not know where their child is located,” said Azar during a Senate hearing Tuesday. “I sat on the ORR portal, with just basic key strokes and within seconds could find any child in our care for any parent available.”
Juliette, I'm young enough to remember when HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified that he could find the children "within seconds." https://t.co/iM2nhIsZAu
— Jennifer Taub (@jentaub) July 9, 2018
On July 8, NYT also reported the threats against Ecuador:
The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.
In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.
An anonymous HHS spox (not a blogger) provided a statement to the NYT:
“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” an H.H.S. spokesman said in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.
So, it looks like there’s a growing list of cabinet secretaries and others who go on national TV, or speak from the podium to eternal, historical embarrassment … pray tell, who taped them to those lying microphones?