Recently, WHO and the Syrian Ministry of Health completed a joint evaluation of Syria’s main disease surveillance system, the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS). Throughout the crisis, EWARS has been crucial in detecting and preventing the spread of diseases such as measles and cholera. Health facilities in Syria submit weekly surveillance data to the Ministry of Health in Damascus to be analyzed and responded to.
The evaluation team, comprised of experts from WHO’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, the WHO Country Office in Syria, and national counterparts, assessed 46 health facilities and laboratories in 13 Syrian governorates. The team’s preliminary findings indicate that EWARS is working effectively, with high levels of timeliness, completeness, and acceptability, particularly at field level. The team recommended that the list of diseases under surveillance be revised to include case definitions and that disease thresholds be reviewed. They also recommended efforts to strengthen staff capacity, data quality, and feedback loops.
Dr. Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria, stated that the evaluation was timely and critical for ensuring that EWARS remains agile and fit for purpose. They are committed to working with the Ministry of Health to strengthen EWARS and make it even more effective. Dr. Sherein Elnossery, of the Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at the Regional Office, emphasized EWARS’ importance as a lifeline for people in Syria, particularly during ongoing conflict and uncertainty. Even in the face of recent devastation, such as the earthquake that hit the country, EWARS has remained resilient and vital in providing early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats.
WHO will use the mission recommendations to develop a plan to strengthen EWARS and further increase its capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks and emerging threats.