On Jan. 27, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its list of medicines that should be stockpiled for radiological and nuclear emergencies.
The updated guidance comes the day after U.S. President Joe Biden approved sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, and one week after a Russian official warned nuclear war was an option if the situation in Ukraine deteriorated.
“In radiation emergencies, people may be exposed to radiation at doses ranging from negligible to life-threatening. Governments need to make treatments available for those in need – fast,” Dr Maria Neira, WHO Acting Assistant Director-General, said in a statement. “It is essential that governments are prepared to protect the health of populations and respond immediately to emergencies. This includes having ready supplies of lifesaving medicines that will reduce risks and treat injuries from radiation.”
WHO officials state “intentional uses of radioactive materials with malicious intent” is one of several potential scenarios considered in the publication of the updated guidelines.
“This updated critical medicines list will be a vital preparedness and readiness tool for our partners to identify, procure, stockpile and deliver effective countermeasures in a timely fashion to those at risk or exposed in these events,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.
Escalations in the Russia-Ukraine conflict have sparked fears of an elevated risk of nuclear conflict as the U.S. and NATO countries ramp up military support to Ukraine in what many are openly calling a U.S. proxy war with Russia.
Germany and Poland have each pledged to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks, while the UK is delivering 14 Challenger 2 tanks, along with the delivery of M1 Abrams tanks announced by the Biden administration.
“From a military standpoint, this is a very, very difficult fight,” said Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “This fight stretches all the way from right now … from Kharkiv down to Kherson, and there’s significant fighting ongoing.”
The latest in a long series of nuclear threats came from Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who warned on Jan. 19 that a nuclear attack from Russia is an option that remains on the table.
“And it never occurs to any of the poor to draw the following elementary conclusion from this: the loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war,” Medvedev told his followers on the Telegram app. “The nuclear powers did not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends.”