The Guardian
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Why vulnerable people should suspend hajj


The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health has recommended that people 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, should postpone the pilgrimage for their own safety.

Noting that it is not obligatory for anyone with a serious health condition to perform hajj, the Saudi authority said Muslim pilgrims and rescuers gathered around people who were crushed by overcrowding in Mina during the 2015 pilgrimage.

Hundreds were killed and injured, Saudi authorities said. The crush happened in Mina, a large valley about five kilometers (three miles) from the holy city of Mecca.

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.

They are 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 warned that some of the main contributory factors from the heart breaking 2015 hajj disaster were extreme heat and fatigue. “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” it stated.

The association (ABH) strongly urged 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” it stated.

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