In the midst of the ongoing conflict and uncertainty in Syria, a joint evaluation by WHO and the Syrian Ministry of Health has revealed that the country’s main disease surveillance system, the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS), is working effectively. 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 and found that EWARS is particularly effective at field level.
The preliminary findings of the evaluation team indicate that EWARS has high levels of timeliness, completeness, and acceptability. However, they recommended revising the list of diseases under surveillance to include case definitions and reviewing disease thresholds. Additionally, they recommended efforts to strengthen staff capacity, data quality, and feedback loops to further improve EWARS.
Dr Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria, said that this recent assessment was crucial 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 emphasized that EWARS is a lifeline for people in Syria during these challenging times. Despite facing devastating events such as earthquakes this year, EWARS has proven resilient and is instrumental in providing early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats.
WHO will use these mission recommendations to develop a plan to further strengthen EWARS’ capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks and emerging threats.