It doesn’t like something that should have caused controversy or broken news: the World Health Assembly associated with the United Nations was about to approve a resolution that encouraged breastfeeding, and supported by decades worth of scientific research, its supporters expected it to pass with no problem.
During the weekend, The New York Times released a report about how the delegation of Trump’s administration “upended the deliberations” by “embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers.”
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.
Pausing to reread that might be necessary, because it sounds like the kind of development that would literally be impossible to believe if it happened in fiction: officials from Trump’s administration aggressively threatened an ally because of a non-binding resolution about breastfeeding during the World Health Assembly.
The report from the Times said it was up to other nations to push the measure through, but poorer countries “backed off, citing fears of retaliation” coming from the U.S.
The Russian delegation eventually introduced the resolution – and of course, the Trump administration officials were unprepared to threaten the officials of Vladimir Putin’s government.
While the resolution did end up passing, largely intact, the behavior of the Americans shocked the event’s participants, especially after they hinted that the U.S. may stop supporting the World Health Organization.
Policy director Patti Rundall of Baby Milk Action, a British advocacy group, informed the Times, “We were astonished, appalled and also saddened…. What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health.”
Now this adds to the list of international partnerships and agreements on which Trump’s administration has turned its back.
Of equal importance, Team Trump’s children and families record is growing harder and harder to defend. Clearly, the “zero tolerance” policy of the White House regarding the separations of families at the border between the U.S. and Mexico has caused widespread outrage, but this president also has done things to undermine health coverage for maternity as well as proposed reducing the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s funding.
In May, during an event at the White House, First Lady Melania Trump declared, “Children deserve every opportunity to enjoy their innocence. Every child should know it is safe to make mistakes and that there are supportive adults and friends nearby to catch them if they fall…. I am asking you all to join me in providing support and guidance to our children so that we can make a real difference.”
It would be ideal if her husband’s administration were to begin acting with this mindset.