The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Syrian Ministry of Health recently completed a joint evaluation of the country’s main disease surveillance system, the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS). EWARS has played a crucial role in detecting outbreaks of measles, cholera and other diseases during the ongoing crisis in Syria.
The evaluation team, comprising experts from the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, WHO Country Office in Syria and national counterparts, assessed 46 health facilities and laboratories in 13 Syrian governorates. Preliminary findings indicate that EWARS is functioning effectively with high levels of timeliness, completeness and acceptability particularly at field level. The team recommended revisions to the list of diseases under surveillance to include case definitions and reviewing disease thresholds. They also suggested efforts to strengthen staff capacity, data quality and feedback loops.
Dr Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria said that the evaluation was timely: “This recent assessment is critical to help us ensure that EWARS remains agile and fit for purpose. We are committed to work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen EWARS and make it even more effective.” Dr Sherein Elnossery from the Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at the Regional Office stated that EWARS is a lifeline for people in Syria during ongoing conflict and uncertainty.
“EWARS has proven resilient even during this year’s devastating earthquake. By providing early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats it helps save lives and protect communities’ health. I am proud to be part of this team working to strengthen this vital system,” Dr Elnossery said. The WHO will use mission recommendations to develop a plan aimed at further increasing EWARS capacity to detect disease outbreaks and emerging threats.