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W.h.o. to Probe West Bank Ailment

April 7, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sent two medical experts to Israel to conduct an independent investigation of a mysterious ailment that has affected close to 600 persons on the West Bank, mostly Arab teen-age girls. A spokesman for the WHO, an agency of the United Nations, announced today that the mission was at the request of the Israeli government and of UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar,

The Security Council requested Monday night that the Secretary General “conduct independent inquiries concerning the cause and effects of the serious problem of the reported cases of poisoning (on the West Bank) and urgently report on the findings.”

It was not immediately clear whether the dispatch to Israel yesterday of Dr. Ian Carter and Dr. Gastone Vettorazzi was in response to the Security Council’s request. Carter, an Australian, is deputy director of the WHO’s division of epidemiology and Vettorazzi is a toxicologist.

Questions were raised at the WHO press conference here as to why no psychologist was sent as part of the investigating team. The spokesman said one might be sent later on. Pro-Israel circles in the WHO told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that a psychologist was not included because the Arabs might have though that the WHO subscribes to the Israeli theory that the illness was a case of mass hysteria.

Mohammad Yahya Maroofi, a member of the International Support Committee for a Free Afghanistan, told the JTA that the Russian invaders of Afghanistan had poisoned drinking water, inducing among Afghan school children the same symptoms reported on the West Bank.


Meanwhile, the International Red Cross said it would release a statement tomorrow on the findings of its representative, Dr. Franz Altherr who investigated the alleged poisonings on the West Bank. The Israeli Health Ministry claimed Monday that Altherr had confirmed its view that the ailment was a manifestation of mass psychosis.

Altherr has refused to make any public comment since he returned to Geneva yesterday. The Red Cross stressed that his mission was to ensure that hospitalized victims were receiving adequate medical treatment, not to conduct an inquiry into the causes of the ailment.

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