29 November 2018 – At around midnight on 24 November 2018, WHO received unconfirmed reports of patients arriving in health facilities in Aleppo with symptoms that might be consistent with exposure to chemical agents. At approximately the same time, the United Nations Department of Safety and Security office in Syria reported unconfirmed information that the Al-Zahraa, Al-Khaldiyyeh and Nile Street areas of Aleppo city had been shelled with rounds of mortar fire that included an unknown type of gas. According to unconfirmed reports, dozens of patients were being admitted to Aleppo’s two public hospitals.
WHO activated its emergency procedures to assist the public health response in Aleppo and immediately distributed the supplies requested by the two public hospitals and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). WHO has been informed that all patients had been discharged from the hospitals as of 25 November after receiving treatment. According to the Aleppo Directorate of Health, 122 patients were received by the two hospitals.
WHO has been helping the country prepare for the management of chemical events since 2012. The Organization has issued clinical management protocols, trained clinicians on the management of patients who have been exposed to chemical agents, distributed personal protective equipment to hospitals and health care facilities, and raised Syrians’ awareness of how to protect themselves against exposure and when to seek treatment. In Aleppo, WHO has trained 265 clinicians on immediate decontamination, referral, triage and treatment measures.
WHO reiterates the United Nations Secretary-General’s statement that any confirmed use of such weapons, by any party to the conflict and under any circumstances, is abhorrent and a clear violation of international law.