A recent joint evaluation of Syria’s primary disease surveillance system, the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS), has been completed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Syrian Ministry of Health. EWARS has played a crucial role in identifying outbreaks of measles, cholera, and other diseases during the ongoing crisis in Syria.
The evaluation team, consisting of experts from the WHO Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean, WHO Country Office in Syria, and national counterparts, assessed 46 health facilities and laboratories across 13 Syrian governorates. Preliminary findings suggest that EWARS is functioning effectively with high levels of timeliness, completeness, and acceptability at field level. The team recommended several improvements to the system such as revising the list of diseases under surveillance to include case definitions and reviewing disease thresholds. Additionally, efforts were suggested to strengthen staff capacity, data quality, and feedback loops.
Dr Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria stated that this recent assessment was timely as it had not been conducted since 2017. He emphasized the need to ensure that EWARS remains agile and effective to serve the people better in such uncertain times. Dr Sherein Elnossery from Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at the Regional Office highlighted EWARS’ resilience even during this year’s devastating earthquake that hit Syria. She expressed pride in working on strengthening this critical system which provides early warnings about outbreaks and emerging threats thus saving lives and protecting communities’ health. The WHO will use these recommendations to develop a plan aimed at further enhancing EWARS’ capacity to detect disease outbreaks quickly and respond accordingly.