Depriving Children of Basic Needs Is Not Acceptable!  by Polly Mann

Less evident and quite insidious are other ways of depriving children [besides separation at the border]. They include depriving them of basic needs at birth. And it’s done again by our own U.S. government — under our name and with our tax dollars.

WAMM Newsletter, Volume 36, Number 6  Fall II  2018

By Polly Mann

We, the people of the U.S., are painfully aware of how our government has heartlessly separated children from their parents at the border. And we who are against military madness are also painfully aware of the “collateral damage” done with U.S. manufactured drones and bombs as they deprive children in other countries of life itself.

Less evident and quite insidious are other ways of depriving children. They include depriving them of basic needs at birth. And it’s done again by our own U.S. government — under our name and with our tax dollars.

One particularly heinous way of harming children is to deprive them of their own mothers’ milk. Breastfeeding for six months to two years of a child’s life provides the strongest foundation of health. But, at the behest of the $70 billion U.S. infant formula manufacturing business, the U.S. government delegation to the World Health Assembly worked to discourage breastfeeding around the world.

According to reports, countries were threatened with disadvantageous trade agreements and other forms of retaliation if they introduced an expected, standard resolution promoting breastfeeding. Our government made these threats at the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), when it met in Geneva last summer. A resolution to protect children’s health was eventually introduced by Russia, a country powerful enough to stand up to the U.S., but all the same our government representatives to the assembly succeeded in having this language removed from the resolution: “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and “restricting the promotion of food products that have a deleterious effect on young children.”

Along with processed foods, infant formula is being marketed in poorer nations as more U.S. mothers are able to breastfeed with workplaces accommodating them.

Mothers fortunate enough to find a woman-friendly workplace aside, our nation now has characteristics of poorer nations, which result in the health of many children put at risk. That’s a reason why, this year, Rev. Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis launched the nationwide Poor People’s Campaign. They decried:

The richest 1 percent in our country own more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent combined, tightening their grip on political power to shape labor, tax, healthcare and campaign finance policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many. A full 60 percent more Americans now live below the official poverty line than in 1968, and 43 percent of all American children now live below the minimum income level considered necessary to meet basic family needs.

In response to this unacceptable situation, the two reverends call for a moral revival with their announcement of “the Moral Agenda to demand a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting right laws, new programs to lift up 140 million Americans living in poverty, immediate attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism.”

As a woman against military madness, I’m especially glad to see the issue of curbing militarism addressed. In 2017, 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar went to the military, while only 15 cents were spent on anti-poverty programs. This situation is what is depriving children! Think of how children could benefit if the numbers were reversed — children in the U.S. could be provided for, Homeland Security could have its funds cut, ICE could be abolished, and many children in other countries where the U.S. wages war might still be alive!

Polly Mann is a founder of Women Against Military Madness and a regular columnist and contributor to this newsletter.

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