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Syria: WHO, “outraged at use of chemical weapons. Immediate, clear access to the area to assist affected people”

The World Health organisation (WHO) is deeply alarmed at learning about the alleged use of toxic chemicals in the city of Douma, in Eastern Ghouta. In a notice posted today, the WHO, quoting sources such as “Health Cluster”, speaks of “550 patients, who during the bombing of Douma last Saturday, went to the healthcare facilities with signs and symptoms that were consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals. Mainly signs of serious irritation of the mucous membranes, respiratory failure, and failure of the central nervous system in the exposed people. Over 70 people who had taken shelter in basements died, 43 of them with symptoms that were compatible with exposure to highly toxic chemicals. Two healthcare facilities were affected by the attacks as well”. The WHO reminds the conflicting parties that “they have a duty to abstain from attacking medical facilities and staff, under Resolution 2286 (2016) of the Security Council. Any use of chemical weapons to cause damage is illegal, according to international law. International laws against chemical weapons reflect a special loathing for their disproportionate damage, which affects the older, sicker and younger among us”. On his part, Peter Salama, General Manager of the WHO for emergency readiness and response, says that “we all should be outraged at the horrible reports and images that come from Douma. The WHO asks for immediate and clear access to the area to assist the affected people, to assess the impact on health, and give a general answer to public health”. The OHM and its partners say they are “ready to provide more assistance to the areas of Eastern Ghouta as soon as access is provided”, though they will keep providing care for traumas, drugs, medical devices and personal protection equipment, support for mental health, medical consultations and general reproductive health, prenatal and obstetric assistance services, immunisations and disease surveillance services.

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