Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Syrian Ministry of Health completed an evaluation of the country’s main disease surveillance system, known as the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS). The EWARS has been instrumental in detecting outbreaks of diseases such as measles, cholera and others during the ongoing crisis in Syria and preventing their further spread.
The evaluation team, consisting of experts from the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, WHO Country Office in Syria and national counterparts, assessed 46 health facilities and laboratories across 13 Syrian governorates. The preliminary findings indicate that EWARS is functioning effectively with high levels of timeliness, completeness and acceptability at field level. However, the team recommended revising the list of diseases under surveillance to include case definitions and reviewing disease thresholds. It also recommended efforts to strengthen staff capacity, data quality and feedback loops.
Dr Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria stated that this recent assessment was timely as it helped ensure that EWARS remains agile and fit for purpose. Dr Sherein Elnossery from the Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at the Regional Office emphasized that EWARS is a lifeline for people in Syria in the face of ongoing conflict and uncertainty. “EWARS has proven resilient even in the face of devastating earthquakes that hit our country this year,” she said. “It helps to save lives by providing early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats.” The WHO will use these recommendations to develop a plan to strengthen EWARS further increase its capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks