NEW YORK (Sep. 28)
After having restored more than 1,000,000 Jews in Europe to their health, the Joint Distribution Committee is about to complete its medical rehabilitation program which is the greatest postwar program of this kind undertaken by a voluntary relief agency, it was reported today by Dr. William M. Schmidt, overseas medical director of the J.D.C.
Dr. Schmidt, who recently returned to this country after three and one-half years of service overseas to become an Associate Professor of Harvard Medical School, said that “a basic improvement in the health of the surviving Jews of Europe is in evidence nearly everywhere. The rate of communicable disease has dropped sharply and malnutrition is almost non-existent.”
Dr. Schmidt pointed out that when he went overseas for the Joint Distribution Committee in 1946, “a survey by the Swiss Red Cross showed that four out of every 100 Jews in the DP camps in Germany and Austria were suffering from tuberculosis. Today, the number of TB sufferers has dropped to 1.3 per hundred, a rate approaching normal.
“The decline in cases of malnutrition is even more dramatic,” Dr. Schmidt continued. “Immediately after their liberation in 1945, the 1,400,000 Jewish survivors of an era of slave labor and concentration camps were half-starved wrecks. Malnutrition was so widespread that thousands required hospitalization. Today, the number of undernourished Jews in Europe is less than two percent.”
One of the major factors in winning the fight against the effects of malnutrition were the 155,000,000 pounds of food, purchased with funds provided by American Jews through the United Jewish Appeal, which were shipped to Europe during the past four years by the Joint Distribution Committee, Dr. Schmidt stated. An average of 100,000 persons monthly received care and treatment through a network of 525 health institutions supported by the J.D.C. in more than 15 countries, he said. Specialized attention was given to children in 500 child-care institutions. Expenditures for medical operations were as high as $4,000,000 in a single year, he reported.
J.D.C. STILL GIVING MEDICAL AID TO 75,000 MONTHLY; HELPS JEWS IN NO. AFRICA
The J.D.C. rehabilitation program, Dr. Schmidt said, has made possible the emigration to Israel of tens of thousands of European Jews who would not otherwise have been able to leave Europe. At present, it is still giving medical aid to 75,000 people monthly and will continue to have responsibility for the “hard core” of DP’s, who for reasons of permanently impaired health and physical handicaps will never be able to emigrate. In addition, the J.D.C. is expanding its activities in North Africa and the Near East, where the “900,000 Jews in Moslem lands live under conditions as wretched as can be found anywhere on the face of the earth,” he stated.
“Infant mortality rate in the Jewish quarters of cities like Casablanca is one of the highest in the world,” Dr. Schmidt reported. “One-third of the Jewish population suffers from trachoma. Malnutrition is widespread. Medical aid is non-existent or extremely limited.” He said that the J.D.C. has established clinics in Casablanca, Marrakech, Oujda, Sale–all in Morocco–as well as in Tunisia, but added that “only the surface has been scratched.”
In Algiers and Tripoli, he disclosed, three transient centers have been established to care for the thousands of Jews from the interior of North Africa who arrive there every month asking passage to Israel. In those centers, the potential emigrants are given clothes, physical examinations and medical care to make it possible for them to immigrate to Israel.