The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that 500 Syrians who were killed or injured in a shelling attack in Douma showed “signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals.”
The United Nations agency says it has assessed reports from on-scene partners who examined casualties and fatalities from what many believe was a chemical weapons attack from the Syrian government against its own citizens.
“We should all be outraged at these horrific reports and images from Douma,” Dr. Peter Salama, WHO deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, said in a statement. “WHO demands immediate unhindered access to the area to provide care to those affected, to assess the health impacts, and to deliver a comprehensive public health response.”
Although the WHO report is unable to positively identify the source of the deaths and injuries as chemical weapons, it indicates that health professionals observed “signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed.”
The statement further states that 43 of the more than 70 people who perished in the attack had “symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals.”
An on-scene investigation will “shortly” be conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which promised on Tuesday to send a team to Douma to obtain first-hand evidence.