“The head of the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) visited Yemen and described the conditions he saw in the country as “hell.” His visit comes as the UN is warning 400,000 Yemeni children will starve to death in 2021 if conditions do not change.” https://news.antiwar.com/2021/03/10/this-is-hell-un-food-chief-visits-yemen-as-children-starve/
FOOD INSECURITY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Across the world many countries are faced with the growing threat of food insecurity* and in some countries malnutrition and starvation of their children because of the covid-19 pandemic. The situation in Yemen has been made worse because of their 6-year war with Saudi Arabia (bombs bought from the USA) and the US-backed Saudi blockade creating food and fuel shortages.
*food insecurity defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”
While the situation in the US in no way compares to developing countries facing famines, US food insecurity doubled (some studies state US food insecurity tripled) during the covid-19 pandemic. The Brooking Institute found that 27.5% of US households with children were food insecure.
“In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, equaling to over 37 million Americans, including more than 11 million children.”
BREASTFEEDING IS A NATURAL RESOURCE THAT IS A COST EFFECTIVE STRATEGY TO PROTECT INFANTS
Infants and children who are malnourished are more prone to infectious diseases. One of the best prevention's against infectious disease for infants and young children is breastfeeding.
In a Mead Johnson patent #8137718 entitled, “Probiotic infant products,” filed in 2008 they state,
“Consumption of human milk is one of the most cost effective strategies known to medicine for protecting infants against morbidity and mortality due to infectious disease.”
And, “Significantly enhanced immunological protection by breastfeeding has been demonstrated for diarrheal diseases, respiratory tract illnesses, bacteremia, meningitis, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Protection by breastfeeding is especially efficacious against diarrheal disease.”
Mead Johnson in this patent may use Bifidobacteria longum AH1205 obtained from the feces of a 3-day old male breastfed infant to create an infant formula “closer” to human milk. Or they may genetically engineer the bacteria. http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8137718.PN.&OS=PN/8137718&RS=PN/8137718
For many years diarrheal disease has been and is the leading cause of death in children under 5. It is a vicious cycle of diarrhea that leads to malnutrition that leads back to diarrhea with deadly consequences.
“Among children who survive severe diarrhea, chronic infections can contribute to malnutrition. In turn malnutrition makes children vulnerable to diarrhea infections.” https://www.defeatdd.org/sites/default/files/node-images/Malnutrition%20Diarrhea%20Messages.pdf
Patent #5505955 entitled, “Anti-diarrheic product and method of treating rotavirus-associated infection, filed in 1995 and owned by Senomed Inc., Cancer Research Fund of Contra Costa. And John Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine, they state,
“In the developing countries, infectious gastrointestinal diseases are estimated to cause up to 12,000 deaths per day. Diarrheal disease is also an important health problem in the developed countries. In the U.S. over 200,000 children under 5 years of age are hospitalized each year with acute diarrheal disease. This results in nearly 880,000 in-patient hospital days, over 500 deaths, and almost one billion dollars of in-patient costs per year.”
This patent had US government funding from the National Institute of Health and its invention was to use defatted human milk fat globules to prevent and treat rotavirus/diarrheal disease infections. http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5505955.PN.&OS=PN/5505955&RS=PN/5505955
In a more recent (filed in 2017) infant formula patent #10813940 owned by Abbott Labs, manufacturer of Similac infant formula, states,
“Breastfeeding has been associated with enhanced development and balanced growth .and maturation of the infant’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and immune systems, thereby providing protection of the infant to infectious and inflammatory diseases.”
Abbott Labs will be using Human Milk Oligosaccharides and nucleotides to treat or prevent viral infections. HMOs may be “isolated or enriched from milk(s) secreted by mammals including but not limited to human, bovine, ovine, porcine, or caprine species.” Or HMOs may be manufactured thru use of other processes: enzymes, fermentation, etc. http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=10813940.PN.&OS=PN/10813940&RS=PN/10813940
INFANT FORMULA/BOTTLEFEEDING HAS MANY RISKS DURING EMERGENCIES
Infant formula is a costly product that has many risks in countries where poverty is prevalent. The product is expensive which sometimes means that parents will water-down the product to save money. This can cause serious health consequences such as electrolyte and sodium imbalances that lead to water intoxication or even death for infants younger than a year. Bottle-feeding breast milk that has been watered down can also be dangerous for infants. A US couple was charged with murder of their infant daughter for watering down breast milk in a bottle. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/04/30/baby-dies-water-toxicity/26670583/
The use of infant formula, bottles, and bottle nipples carries risks during emergency situations in which there is no electricity or fuel to boil water to clean and inactivate pathogens that may reside in formula, bottles, bottle nipples, and on breast pump equipment. No electricity or fuel also means that there is no refrigeration to store formula or human milk. No electricity means that electric breast pumps will not work.
While free infant formula is often donated to countries during emergencies, it does not guarantee that there will be enough of it to last during a major crisis. And often the introduction of free infant formula sabotages those mothers who are breastfeeding by lowering a mother’s milk supply. Too often the instructions on making infant formula that are on the can/plastic container are in a different language than the mother. If the mother quits breastfeeding and the free formula becomes unavailable the baby will be fed inappropriate drinks/food. Babies will become malnourished or die. In some emergency situations if the baby is malnourished and/or sick; it may be impossible to get medical help or get to a hospital, because roads are impassable or gasoline is unavailable (pumping gasoline requires electricity).
THE CREATION OF GOOD WILL BY GIFTS OF CASH AND INFANT FORMULA DURING COVID-19
In a press release Nestle announced that they have partnered with the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies with CHF 10 million to the British and Irish Red Cross during the pandemic. In the US Nestle donated $1 million to the American Red Cross for Covid Relief. Nestle donated to the Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies of numerous countries. The donations were sometimes cash donations and/or food, medical nutrition products, and bottled water. The list of countries besides USA, UK, Ireland are Kenya Red Cross, Ghana Red Cross, Australia with Food Bank Australia given $2million in products, Grenada Red Cross, Jamaica, Fiji, Philippines Red Cross Php 10 million in medical supplies, vaccines, etc., Ethiopian Red Cross, Honduras, Pakistan, Peru, Poland. In the mid-east: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Oman, Yemen-Yemeni Food Bank 380,000 servings. Iraq received 280,000 servings of NIDO, Palestine was given contributions to the Ministry of Health Fund, Bethlehem Governorate, Caritas Baby Hospital. Other mid-eastern countries given various donations were Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia.
In a Bloomberg article Nestle will be helping distribute Covid-19 vaccines, particularly to developing countries. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-02/nestle-plans-to-help-distributing-vaccines-in-covid-19-fight
This massive gift-giving of cash and products is astounding to me. It will certainly create good will towards the company. And it is highly likely that other infant formula companies are gift-giving as well as Nestle. Governments will be particularly grateful, since this pandemic has created a global recession with much unrest among those who lost jobs, businesses, and lost so many family members and friends to covid-19. Yet this gift-giving also comes with a price. Infant formula and its risks to the health and well-being of infants and children is the price that will be paid by families globally. Copyright 2021 Valerie W. McClain
Walker, M. “A Fresh Look at the Risks of Artificial Infant Formula, JHL 1993. https://doi.org/10.1177/089033449300900222
Carothers, C. and Gribble, K. “Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies,” JHL 2014. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890334414537118