Reports emerged this past week that the Trump regime has opposed a resolution affirming breastfeeding as the best option for babies at the World Health Organisation Assembly in Geneva.
The resolution also sought to discourage the false advertising for baby formula as equivalent alternatives to breast milk.
There is a plethora of research that shows the overwhelming benefits of breast milk over infant formula, but the resolution was fiercely opposed by US diplomats.
Specifically the US wanted the removal of wording that required states to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding,” and also wording that required states to restrict the promotion of food products that can negatively affect young children.
Unsurprisingly there was stiff resistance to these efforts, and US diplomats then reportedly resorted to threats. The resolution’s sponsor Ecuador withdrew as sponsor, after threats by the US to cut military aid and impose trade restrictions.
There were then frantic efforts to find an alternative sponsor but no country from Africa or Latin America was willing. Eventually, Russia stepped in.
There is little doubt that the amendments sought by the Trump regime are all about putting profit above all else, including lives of babies in developing world.
While baby formula can be useful where the mother is unable to produce breast milk or to prevent mother-child transmission of HIV, in most poor countries--and for the majority of poor people worldwide--the quality of water used in preparing baby formula is suspect.
In fact, using infant formula mixed with unclean water can lead to death, and it was reported that 66,000 babies died in 1981 in low and middle-income countries due to the availability of formula.
Currently, growth in sales of infant formula in wealthy countries has flattened as more mothers turn to breastfeeding.
And so the producing companies have now turned to poorer countries for increased sales, which explains the frenetic push to remove any obstacles that can increase profits, even if that means advertising messages that contradict science and hurt babies.
This whole saga could be seen as yet another of the wild, uncontrolled, and outrageous actions that we have come to expect from the Trump regime.
But in reality, the Trump regime is taking a leaf out of the leadership that dominates Africa, where profits for the powerful come first before life, and which has trickled down to others who will risk other people’s lives to make profit.
For when the Kenyatta regime make deals to process coal in Lamu for electricity that we don’t need knowing the deleterious effects to the environment, it is putting profits before life.
And especially when it then agrees to pay companies involved a set amount for ten years whether it produces electricity or not, it is saying that it is profits first.
When it borrows from China for an SGR that is more costly than it should have been and which means it cannot pay for itself without our tax money being pumped in, it risks lives of children who will lack quality education, health and service just so that we can pay off loans that probably went into personal bank accounts.
And when it issues and receives $2.5 billion from the Eurobond but can only account for $1.5 billion, it means that our children and grandchildren will be deprived just so that a few powerful people can enlarge their already fat accounts.
It is like a group of billionaires going to a restaurant for a meal and then leaving the bill to be paid by the waiter who served them!
And there is the imported sugar contaminated with mercury being sold willy-nilly risking our lives. Or the fertiliser imported for our maize farmers that turns out to be as good as chalk meaning that farmers lose their crop and livelihoods.
Or importing maize at random for a few to make a bang, whilst forgetting that we have farmers whose whole existence depends on being able to sell their crop to offset loans and pay school fees.
The worst thing about this attitude of profit before life is that it has percolated down into normal society. Thus we see buses full of people driving at breakneck speeds as though the passengers were dispensable cargo.
In contradistinction, the trucks ferrying cargo drive slowly and laboriously fully intent on delivering their inanimate goods!
Our matatu culture is another prime example of profit before life, where recklessness, overlapping and speed are cherished so as to make the desired quotas, even if it means an accident or two.
When our road engineers cut corners so that potholes that can swallow Toyota Vitz appear as soon as we have rain for three days, they are putting profit before life.
When our lawyers facilitate corruption by hiding the proceeds of corruption and theft in their confidential client accounts—where they make profit from the interest rates—they are destroying lives.
Our global economic system means profit is necessary. But it is surely time to make laws and regulations that ensure profit is never more important than people.
- The writer is former KNCHR chair. [email protected]