A staff member of the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR) in Johannesburg holds a bottle of pasteurised breast milk in Johannesburg.
The South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR), a non-profit organization, is the biggest human-milk bank partnered with the South African Department of Health.  Children who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to survive in the first six months of life than formula-fed children, according to UNICEF.  But South Africa has very low breastfeeding rates at just 7.4 percent, partly as a result of pervasive poverty and effective marketing by baby formula companies.

A staff member of the South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR) in Johannesburg holds a bottle of pasteurised breast milk in Johannesburg. The South African Breastmilk Reserve (SABR), a non-profit organization, is the biggest human-milk bank partnered with the South African Department of Health. Children who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to survive in the first six months of life than formula-fed children, according to UNICEF. But South Africa has very low breastfeeding rates at just 7.4 percent, partly as a result of pervasive poverty and effective marketing by baby formula companies.

Out of the millions of choices a mother makes every day, one debate has endured: breast-milk vs.formula.

But the United States delegation at the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly got involved in a way almost no one expected.

Andrew Jacobs reports in the New York Times

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

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.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

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.

It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.

The president called this story fake on Twitter on July 9.

What’s behind these moves?

Guests

  • David Dayen Contributing writer for the Los Angeles Times

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