The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that people aged over 65 years and those with chronic diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and pilgrims with immune deficiency (congenital and acquired), malignancy and terminal illnesses, pregnant women and children aged under 12 years planning to perform Hajj this year, to postpone the pilgrimage for their own safety. It is not obligatory for anyone with a serious health condition to perform Hajj.
Health and safety experts from Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK, in supporting the recommendations by the Saudi Ministry of Health, express grave concern that the vast majority of pilgrims at Hajj fall in the high-risk categories. Therefore, they are more prone to tragic incidents, hardship and difficulties due to overcrowding, harsh weather, lack of acclimatisation, strenuous physical activities, and dehydration while performing Hajj rituals.
Safety experts warn that some of the main contributory factors from the heart breaking 2015 Hajj disaster were extreme heat and fatigue, which led to the loss of over 2,000 innocent lives. Most of those who died in these terrible circumstances were elderly, sick, disabled and women. The temperatures in Makkah at the time had reached up to 46°C. Pilgrims were already dehydrated and fainting before the stampede began. Horrific scenes from the stampede aftermath caused great grief and distress amongst Muslims all over the world.
ABH strongly urge the relevant authorities and Muslim scholars to promote a culture in which Muslims are encouraged to perform Hajj at a young age to avoid hardship and perform Hajj safely. A substantial number of pilgrims, specifically the elderly and sick, also die at the Hajj pilgrimage every year due to health-related issues.
It is highly regrettable that the vast majority of attending pilgrims do not have the appropriate knowledge of the risks involved when they are performing Hajj rituals amongst daunting crowds of over two million people. Past Hajj disasters could have been prevented had pilgrims been equipped with knowledge of lifesaving precautionary measures.
Therefore, it is extremely important to raise awareness and knowledge of vital life-saving information amongst prospective pilgrims from around the world. Informed pilgrims will be able to safeguard their own wellbeing and help prevent any future Hajj tragedies.