In recent times, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Syrian Ministry of Health have collaborated to assess the effectiveness of the country’s primary disease surveillance system, Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS). Throughout the ongoing crisis in Syria, EWARS has played a pivotal role in detecting outbreaks of measles, cholera and other diseases and preventing their spread.
Health facilities across Syria submit weekly surveillance data to the Ministry of Health in Damascus for consolidation, analysis, and response. An evaluation team comprising experts from the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, WHO Country Office in Syria, and national counterparts recently assessed 46 health facilities and laboratories in 13 Syrian governorates. The preliminary findings suggest that EWARS is functioning effectively with high levels of timeliness, completeness, and acceptability particularly at field level.
The evaluation team recommended that the list of diseases under surveillance be revised to include case definitions and that disease thresholds be reviewed. Additionally, they suggested efforts to strengthen staff capacity, data quality and feedback loops. Dr Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria stated that the evaluation was timely as it has been four years since the last assessment was conducted. “This recent assessment is critical to help us ensure that EWARS remains agile and fit for purpose,” he said. “We are committed to work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen EWARS and make it even more effective.”
Dr Sherein Elnossery from Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at WHO’s Regional Office added that EWARS is a lifeline for people in Syria facing ongoing conflict and uncertainty. “EWARS has proven resilient even in the face of devastating earthquake that hit this year,” she said proudly. “By providing early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats it helps save lives and protect communities’ health.” The mission recommendations will be used by WHO to develop a plan aimed at further increasing EWARS’ capacity to detect disease outbreaks