A study team sent to Vietnam by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) to investigate postwar living conditions there yesterday urged immediate U.S. economic aid and normalization of diplomatic and trade ties as a humanitarian effort.
The four Americans, who spent a week in Vietnam earlier this month, said they found evidence of hunger and malnutrition, poor medical care, disease and general inability to curb the population increase of 3 percent annually, which makes other problems worse.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the groups's report, Tuffs University President Jean Mayer said it is "ethically as well as politically" in the U.S. interest ot normalize relations with Vietnam and supply aid for food and agriculture, health and education.
"This will not only reestablish our moral authority in Asia," but provide another chance at "one of the objectives for which we fought the war, namely to insure the independence of Vietnam from China and Russia," said Mayer, a member of the president's Commission on World Hunger.
Others on the team, which also helped fcilitate reunions of 29 Vietnamese relatives with American families last month, were the Roman Catholice archbishop of New Orleans, the Most Rev. Philip M. Hannan; Dr. La-Salle Lefall, president-elect of the American Cancer Society, and Mildred Kaufman, nutrition chairman of the American Public Health Association.
Mayer said food production, crippled by the absence of "every agriculture need," including fertilizers, insecticides and farm machinery, will be short by about 1.5 million tons of the country's basic supply needs this year.
Kaufman, who said she noted the appearance of emaciation among patients in some clinics and hospitals, said she was impressed with the diligence of the Vietnamese in rebuilding, inspite of the severe rationing of food.
Leffall reported inferior medical equipment, total absence of X-ray film in some cases and 25-year-old surgical equipment. Another problem is scarcity of antibiotics in a country with 40 percent malaria incidence among the population, and the epidemic diseases of diarrhea, tuberculosis, skin infections and veneral disease as common illnesses, he said.
Vietnam's overall humanitarian problems are made worse, the team concluded, by the presence of some 200,000 Cambodian refugees within its borders. They recommended an immediate U.S. pledge of $10 million toward the United Nations' Southeast Asia refugees support effort.
The commission also recommended cultural, educational and scientific exchanges between the two countries. Mayer said he was particularly pained to find Vietnamese universities so "isolated and destitude." Some had no technical journals later than 1975, except in Russian, a little-known foreign language in Vietnam compared with English and French.
The study mission delivered a letter to Kennedy from Pham Van Dong, prime minister of Vietnam, in which he repeated the Vietnamese expressnionss of recent weeks indicating readiness to establish relations with the United States.
Dong said he is optimistic about resolution to questions that will lead to normalization of U.S.-Vietnam relations.
Although there is no specific legislation in the works that responds to the study team's recommendations, Kennedy said he expects that many of the concerns will be addressed in the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, chaired by Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.).
Kennedy said he would discuss with the Commerce Department a task force recommendation that U.S. multinational companies be allowed into Vietnam. He said he would pursue other recommendations with the Office of Science and Technology, which advises the president.