The Struggle for Integrity

By Anwar Fazal, Chairperson, WABA

FORUM LINK, Issue One, 2 December 1996.. Newsletter of the WABA Global Forum, Children’s Health, Children’s Rights: Action for the 21st Century at Nonthaburi, Thailand from2-6 December 1996.

Breastfeeding as a culture was undermined by a massive collapse of integrity.  First, the corporations who produced infant formulas were motivated by greed, and massively intervened through inducement – or more bluntly, bribery.  Moreover, misinformation from industry created a market by systematically subverting breastfeeding.

Secondly, the health profession was tempted in an age of massive ‘medicalisation’ and ‘institutionalisation’ of healthcare and sucked into an association that was clearly anti-health.  Free supplies, sponsorship and grants all went to creating unconscionable submissives among sectors of the health industry.

Thirdly, it was the era of industrialisation with former colonial and imperialistic power dominating. World markets and a certain kind of ‘modernism’ and ‘progress’ became associated with the spread of power.  The transnational corporations built on this dominating paradigm to foist products globally in poor countries.  And they added insult to injury by using only pictures to white babies on their cans.

This massive manipulation through assistance and association has created a necessity not just to demarket the product but to delink the ‘unholy alliance’ between industry and some health workers, institutions and organisations. Some organisations have been courageous; committed people like Dr Raj Anand working for the Indian Pediatric Association have made heroic changes.  Now, we have WABA guidelines that fight against such vested interest sponsorships.

We must keep the struggle against sponsorships by the infant formula industry. They are viciously corrupting. No responsible health worker should get sucked in by such corruption.

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