Juba, 25 May 2018 – Disease outbreaks and other emergencies constitute a serious threat to public health security worldwide. Delayed and incomplete indicator and event-based reporting limits health managers’ ability to initiate timely event investigation and response. This reporting delay further constrains rapid event containment thus increasing the risk of extensive international disease spread and excess morbidity and mortality.
Hence, real time communication between health facility workers and disease surveillance officers at the County, State, and national levels in line with the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) guidelines is vital for initiating timely and appropriate public health action.
To overcome the reporting challenges of transmitting standardized paper-based IDSR data tools and strengthen surveillance and response capacities, WHO rolled out the third phase of the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS), a web-based and mobile devise enabled electronic platform.
During the current phase, mobile reporting is being rolled out to peripheral health facilities especially those with high food insecurity and Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates, conflict affected areas, areas at risk for disease outbreaks, and other locations including all the functional health facilities countywide.
The third phase of the EWARS rollout to the health facility level started with a two-day orientation of national level trainers. The participants were introduced to IDSR and how the EWARS application, will be used to enhance key IDSR functions including case and outbreak detection, event detection and management, reporting, outbreak investigation, line listing, and response, feedback, laboratory surveillance, and supervision.
The objective the third phase of the EWARS project led by the WHO Health Emergencies Programme (WHE) is to decentralize data collection and alert management further down to health facility level, says Dr Joseph Wamala, Epidemiologist, WHO Country Office South Sudan. It is also designed to include the integration of the public health laboratory network within the electronic surveillance system; and integration of the other types of data (notably, event surveillance data from the health facility and community levels and outbreak investigation and line listing in support of outbreak response).
The practical sessions entailed simulated presentations on how to create user accounts with graduated access rights, application login, request for reporting unit assignments, reporting of weekly aggregate data, outbreak line listing and using the event-based module to report and manage outbreak alerts.
The current rollout phase also facilitates laboratory based surveillance and sample tracking, testing and laboratory result feedback to lower level health facilities. Other IDSR tools including the support supervision checklists will subsequently be incorporated to support essential IDSR functions.
Through the generous contribution of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), South Sudan strengthened disease surveillance, alert and response, says Mr Evans Liyosi, WHO Representative a.i. for South Sudan. The strategy enabled real-time information sharing and prompt response to disease outbreaks and public health events.
As part of WHO’s strategic and operational response plan for 2018, WHO is strengthening surveillance and health information management using mobile reporting system to enhance disease surveillance and response. Since September 2015, the Global EWARS project has supported and helped to improve the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) and IDSR performance in the conflict-affected and relatively stable areas of the country.