In the midst of ongoing conflict and uncertainty, Syria’s Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS) has proven to be a lifeline for people in need. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Syrian Ministry of Health completed a joint evaluation of EWARS to assess its effectiveness in detecting and preventing the spread of diseases such as measles and cholera.
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. Preliminary findings suggest 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. Additionally, efforts were recommended to strengthen staff capacity, data quality, and feedback loops.
Dr Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria stated that this recent assessment was critical to ensure that EWARS remains agile and fit for purpose. She expressed her commitment to work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen EWARS further and make it even more effective. Dr Sherein Elnossery from the Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at the Regional Office echoed Dr Shankiti’s sentiments by stating that EWARS is a vital system that has helped save lives by providing early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats. She expressed pride in being part of the team working to strengthen this system.
In light of these findings, WHO will use mission recommendations to develop a plan to further increase EWARS’ capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks and emerging threats. With continued support from international organizations like WHO, Syria can continue to rely on EWARS as a lifeline in times of crisis.