Amid Remarkable Health Management Efforts by Saudi Authorities, 1,300 Pilgrims Die During Hajj

Riyadh (UNA/SPA) - The Hajj pilgrimage of 1445 AH witnessed both remarkable health management efforts and significant challenges due to extreme heat. The Saudi Minister of Health, Mr. Fahd Al-Jalajel, confirmed the success of the health management strategies during the pilgrimage, citing the combined efforts of the health system and the Hajj security forces. Despite these efforts, over 1,300 pilgrims tragically lost their lives, the majority of whom were unauthorized to perform Hajj.

Mr. Al-Jalajel highlighted in an interview with Al-Ekhbariya channel that the health system provided more than 465,000 specialized treatment services, including 141,000 services to those without official Hajj permits. This underscores the commitment of the leadership to prioritize human health above all else.

Heat Stress and Unauthorized Pilgrims

The intense heat was a significant factor this year, with temperatures soaring to 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 degrees Fahrenheit). Many unauthorized pilgrims walked long distances under the scorching sun without adequate shelter or comfort, leading to severe cases of heat stress. Mr. Al-Jalajel noted that the health system dealt with a large number of heat stress cases, with some patients still receiving care.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), 83% of the 1,301 deaths were among unauthorized pilgrims. An AFP tally last week, based on official statements and reports from diplomats, initially put the toll at more than 1,100. Among the deceased, Egyptians accounted for 658 deaths, with 630 being unregistered pilgrims.

Health Services and Management Efforts

Despite the tragic losses, the health system's response included comprehensive services ranging from open-heart surgeries to cardiac catheterization and dialysis. Over 6,500 equipped beds and heat stress rooms were available at the holy sites, and advanced health services were facilitated by 100 air ambulance transfers. Additionally, 1.3 million preventive services, including early detection and vaccinations, were provided before the pilgrims' arrival in the Kingdom.

Mr. Al-Jalajel emphasized the importance of adhering to preventive measures and raising awareness about the dangers of heat stress. Efforts to identify the deceased, contact their families, and issue death certificates were also undertaken.

Challenges and Responses

The Saudi health minister described this year's Hajj management as "successful" despite the challenges posed by unauthorized pilgrims. He defended the state's response, highlighting a misjudgment by individuals who underestimated the risks. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly, ordered 16 tourism companies to be stripped of their licenses and referred their managers to the public prosecutor over illegal pilgrimages to Mecca.

Saudi officials reported that 1.8 million pilgrims participated this year, with 1.6 million coming from abroad. The Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, requires Muslims with the means to complete it at least once in their lifetime. However, the high costs and limited permits lead many to attempt the pilgrimage without authorization, risking arrest and deportation.


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