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, comprised 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 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.
Based on these findings, the team recommended several improvements to EWARS. Firstly, they suggested revising the list of diseases under surveillance to include case definitions. Secondly, they advised reviewing disease thresholds. Thirdly, they recommended strengthening staff capacity, data quality and feedback loops.
Dr Iman Shankiti, acting WHO representative in Syria stated that this recent assessment was timely: “The last evaluation of EWARS dates back to 2017. This recent assessment is critical to ensure that EWARS remains agile and fit for purpose.” Dr Sherein Elnossery from the Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at the Regional Office added that EWARS is a lifeline for people in Syria facing ongoing conflict and uncertainty: “EWARS has proven to be resilient even in the face of devastating earthquakes that hit our country this year by providing early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats which helps save lives and protects communities’ health.” WHO will use these mission recommendations to develop a plan to strengthen EWARS further increase its capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks and emerging threats.