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Syria: Response to the US Administration and Other Governments Referring to Médecins Sans Frontières Statement
Over the last two days, the US Administration and other governmental authorities have referred to reports from several agencies, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), while stating that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was “undeniable” and to designate the perpetrators.
Médecins Sans Frontières today warned that its medical information could not be used as evidence to certify the precise origin of the exposure to a neurotoxic agent nor to attribute responsibility.
Last Saturday, Médecins Sans Frontières said that three hospitals it supports in Syria’s Damascus governorate had reportedly received 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms, of which 355 died.
Although our information indicates mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent, Médecins Sans Frontières clearly stated that scientific confirmation of the toxic agent was required and therefore an independent investigation was needed to shed light on what would constitute, if confirmed, a massive and unacceptable violation of international humanitarian law.
Médecins Sans Frontières also stated that in its role as a medical humanitarian organization, it was not in a position to determine responsibility for the event.
Now that an investigation is underway by UN inspectors, Médecins Sans Frontières rejects that our statement be used as a substitute for the investigation or as a justification for military action.
As an independent medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières' sole purpose is to save lives, alleviate the suffering of populations torn by Syrian conflict, and bear witness when confronted with a critical event, in strict compliance with the principles of neutrality and impartiality.
The latest massive influx of patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in Damascus governorate comes on top of an already catastrophic humanitarian situation facing the Syrian people, one characterised by extreme violence, displacement, the destruction of medical facilities, and severely limited or blocked humanitarian action.
MSF in Syria
Médecins Sans Frontières provides medical assistance in Syria through two different approaches. Médecins Sans Frontières international and national staff operate six hospitals and four health centres in structures fully under the organisation’s direct control in the north of Syria.
In areas where Médecins Sans Frontières cannot send its own teams because of insecurity or lack of access, the organisation has expanded a program begun two years ago of supporting Syrian medical networks, hospitals and medical posts, by providing drugs, medical equipment, and technical advice and support.