The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Syrian Ministry of Health recently completed a joint evaluation of Syria’s main disease surveillance system, the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS). Throughout the ongoing crisis in Syria, EWARS has been instrumental in detecting outbreaks of measles, cholera and other diseases, preventing their further spread.
Health facilities across Syria submit weekly surveillance data to the Ministry of Health in Damascus for consolidation, analysis, and response. The evaluation team comprised 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. The preliminary findings indicated that EWARS is working effectively, with high levels of timeliness, completeness, and acceptability – particularly at field level.
The evaluation team recommended that the list of diseases under surveillance be revised to include case definitions and that disease thresholds be reviewed. Additionally, they recommended efforts to strengthen staff capacity, data quality and feedback loops. Dr Iman Shankiti, acting WHO representative in Syria stated that this recent assessment was critical as it helped ensure that EWARS remains agile and fit for purpose. She reiterated the commitment to work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen EWARS and make it even more effective. Dr Sherein Elnossery from the Infectious Hazards Prevention and Preparedness unit at the Regional Office added that EWARS is a lifeline for people in Syria facing ongoing conflict and uncertainty.