Both sides guilty in Syria’s chemical warfare nightmare
Without having destroyed chlorine or mustard gas supplies in Syria, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced in January the end of the destruction process of Syria’s chemical arsenal.
With mustard and chlorine gas continually used as the weapon of choice by the protagonists in this war, the civilian population is suffering immensely, particularly in nongovernment controlled areas where medical facilities are not able to respond.
This is due to an inability to procure specific antidotes or protective equipment from the government or nongovernment organisations.
Following the chemical attack that targeted the Damascus countryside in August 2013, the lack of proper measures to deal with the attack led to large numbers of injuries and deaths due to secondary contamination among victims, medical personnel and rescue teams.
The fallout from such attacks has been tracked and monitored by the International Union of Medical Relief and Care Organisations (UOSSM) that provides free medical aid to all Syrians and operates 12 hospitals and supports 120 clinics in Syria.
Dr Houssam Alnahas of the UOSSM has developed response protocols and manuals in the case of chemical attacks, and warned against the ongoing dangers these attacks pose to the population.
In besieged Aleppo, civilians were targeted in the past few months with five chemical strikes, and on September 6 an attack left 128 injured, including 37 children.
As recently as November 20 an entire family suffocated – the parents and all four children.
Chemical weapons attacks in Syria clearly pose a danger of lethal proportions. Despite the creation by 25 medical relief organisations of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Task Force to improve public awareness and responses, it has not had the co-operation of government agencies or official institutions to support the criminal documentation processes.
This could be because the Syrian government is just as guilty as IS of using chemical weapons.
It is time for the international media to start shining a spotlight on these atrocities.
It was after the media frenzy which showed footage of the human impact of the chemical attack on the Damascus countryside in 2013 that the Obama administration and UN Security Council decided to act.
People flee the Al-Salhen neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo, Syria, this week as Syrian government forces carry out a large-scale offensive to expel insurgents. There have been deplorable gas attacks on both sides.