WHO deploys disease alert response system in Borno health facilities



The World Health Organisation (WHO) has rolled out its Early Warning Alert Response System (EWARS) in 56 health facilities in Borno State to expand and strengthen disease detection in northeastern Nigeria.

WHO in its website, said: “By mid-October, as access to some hard-to-reach areas improved, the number of disease detection sites tripled. Now, 160 sites in Borno State are using the system, covering around 85 per cent of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) living in Borno State – about 1.3 million people in 13 local councils.”

The EWARS project is an initiative to strengthen disease early warning, alert and response in emergencies. It contains all the equipment needed to set up a disease surveillance system, including mobile phones, laptops, solar-powered generators and chargers, all specifically designed to work in difficult and insecure operating environments like northeastern Nigeria. It includes an application that can be rapidly configured and deployed on mobile phones within 48 hours of an emergency being declared.

The advantage of the mobile application is that data are collected and submitted in real time by members of the staff working in health facilities. EWARS also tracks disease alerts and publishes automated epidemiological bulletins each week to support data analysis and interpretation. This allows WHO and Ministry of Health epidemiologists to access the data and take action on alerts far more rapidly than was possible before.

The EWARS application supports existing national disease surveillance systems, in addition to expanding surveillance to include other diseases with a public health burden in IDP camps and host communities, such as malaria, severe acute malnutrition, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection. WHO works with ministries of health and sector partners to train local health workers to use the system. EWARS complements Nigeria’s existing Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) System which has been weakened by the crisis, facilitating real time flow of information for timely response.

Director of Public Health, Borno State Ministry of Health, Dr. Lawi Mshelia, said: “With EWARS, we can quickly adapt to the needs on the ground because it provides real-time reporting which is beneficial to both the government and partners. This system of electronic reporting is great because we are able to send surveillance information and instantly receive alerts and take appropriate action.”

Also, WHO Surveillance Officer, Dr. Ifeanyi Okudo, said: “Now that we have EWARS in place, the system can be used by local health workers for the emergency response, and we can upgrade and adapt it as health needs change.”

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