The Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS) in Syria has been instrumental in detecting outbreaks of diseases such as measles and cholera during the ongoing crisis. Health facilities across the country submit weekly surveillance data to the Ministry of Health in Damascus for analysis and response. Recently, a joint evaluation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Syrian Ministry of Health assessed 46 health facilities and laboratories in 13 Syrian governorates.
The evaluation team, comprising experts from the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, WHO Country Office in Syria, and national counterparts, found that EWARS is working effectively with high levels of timeliness, completeness, and acceptability at field level. The team recommended revising the list of diseases under surveillance to include case definitions and reviewing disease thresholds. They also suggested efforts to strengthen staff capacity, data quality, and feedback loops.
Dr Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria, said that the evaluation 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 stated that EWARS is a lifeline for people in Syria amidst ongoing conflict and uncertainty. The system has proven resilient even after a devastating earthquake hit the country this year. It provides early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats, helping to save lives and protect community health. The WHO will use mission recommendations to develop a plan to strengthen EWARS further increase its capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks and emerging threats.
In conclusion, EWARS has played a critical role in detecting diseases during the ongoing crisis in Syria. The recent evaluation found that it is working effectively with high levels of timeliness, completeness, acceptability at field level. However, there is still room for improvement by revising disease under surveillance lists including case definitions, reviewing disease thresholds; strengthen staff capacity; improve data quality; enhance feedback loops. With these efforts from both WHO and Syrian Ministry of Health; EWARS can continue to be an effective tool for saving lives