There’s a New Guideline for Helping Chemical-Weapons Victims in Syria”“and It’s Brutal

A Syrian man mourns after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces in Douma town, Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.
National Journal
Matt Berman
Aug. 27, 2013, 12:29 p.m.

The World Health Or­gan­iz­a­tion re­leased new in­ter­im guid­ance Tues­day for the treat­ment of vic­tims of chem­ic­al weapons. The doc­u­ment, which is avail­able in both Eng­lish and Ar­ab­ic, is based on field train­ing that’s been car­ried out since last year.

In light of what’s happened in Syr­ia in the past week, the doc­u­ment is pre­dict­ably gut-wrench­ing. Glenn Thomas, a spokes­man for the WHO in Geneva, said that the re­lease of the doc­u­ment this week isn’t just some co­in­cid­ence — it was rushed out to sup­port United Na­tions and WHO staff in Syr­ia. 

The or­gan­iz­a­tion’s flow­chart on identi­fy­ing the class of chem­ic­al ex­pos­ure gives you enough of a sense of how dire the situ­ation must be for med­ic­al re­spon­ders in Syr­ia:


It’s not totally clear yet what type of chem­ic­al weapons have been used in Syr­ia. But ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, the most likely cul­prit in last week’s at­tack is some sort of nerve agent. Ac­cord­ing to the new WHO re­port, here are the signs and symp­toms of these weapons:


It may not be long be­fore the U.S. steps in. Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden said Tues­day that there is “no doubt” that the As­sad re­gime in Syr­ia has used chem­ic­al weapons, and that “no one doubts that in­no­cent men, wo­men, and chil­dren have been the vic­tims.” NBC re­ports that U.S. strikes on Syr­ia in­tend­ing to send a mes­sage could come as soon as Thursday, and last for three days.