In recent years, WHO and the Syrian Ministry of Health collaborated to evaluate the effectiveness of Syria’s main disease surveillance system, known as the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS). EWARS has been instrumental in detecting and preventing the spread of diseases such as measles and cholera during the crisis. Syrian health facilities submit weekly surveillance data to the Ministry of Health in Damascus for analysis and response.
The evaluation team, comprising 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 across 13 Syrian governorates. The preliminary findings revealed that EWARS is functioning effectively with high levels of timeliness, completeness, and acceptability 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, they suggested efforts to improve staff capacity, data quality, and feedback loops.
Dr. Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria, stated that this evaluation was crucial for ensuring EWARS remains adaptable and suitable for its purpose. They are committed to working with the Ministry of Health to strengthen EWARS’ capabilities even further. Dr. Sherein Elnossery from the Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at the Regional Office emphasized EWARS’ vital role as a lifeline for people in Syria during ongoing conflict and uncertainty. Despite recent devastation such as an earthquake that hit the country, EWARS has remained resilient and critical in providing early warnings of outbreaks and emerging threats.
WHO will utilize these recommendations to develop a plan aimed at enhancing EWARS’ capacity to detect and respond promptly to disease outbreaks and emerging threats.