Hajj 2024: International SOS Urges Enhanced Health and Safety Measures for Pilgrims

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New Delhi/Mumbai, 28th May 2024: The annual Hajj pilgrimage, which attracted over 1.8 million participants last year, is set to take place in Saudi Arabia from 14 to 19 June 2024. Given the large scale of the event, ensuring the health and safety of all pilgrims is paramount, with a focus on preventive measures.

Recent reports of meningococcal disease among travelers returning from Saudi Arabia underscore the importance of adhering to health requirements. International SOS, the world’s leading health and security services company, is urging organizations with employees participating in the Hajj pilgrimage to ensure their workforce is aware of essential precautions for a safe and healthy spiritual journey.

Aligned with the latest health and safety regulations established by Saudi Arabian authorities, International SOS has developed comprehensive guidelines to ensure pilgrims’ health, security, and wellbeing. These guidelines include crucial pre-travel considerations and several newly implemented requirements, such as obtaining official permits and vaccinations, heat mitigation strategies, and promoting vigilance and awareness of surroundings to ensure individual safety, particularly during crowd surges.

Dr. Nosa Aihie, Regional Medical Director, Middle East, at International SOS, stated: “It is important for pilgrims to adhere to vaccination requirements listed by the government of Saudi Arabia to protect themselves and their peers from various infectious diseases. This includes the required vaccination against meningitis administered no more than three years and at least ten days prior to the planned arrival in Saudi Arabia. Pilgrims are also advised to carry valid health certificates stating they are free from any acute, chronic, or infectious diseases.”

Dr. Aihie further recommended scheduling activities to avoid peak heat hours and staying adequately hydrated to prevent heat-related illnesses and dehydration during Hajj.

Gulnaz Ukassova, Security Director at International SOS in Dubai, emphasized the need for thorough pre-travel preparation and compliance with government directives, saying, “It is vital for pilgrims undertaking Hajj to thoroughly understand and comply with the relevant Hajj regulations before and during the pilgrimage. Pilgrims should expect large crowds at religious sites, particularly on the Jamaarat Bridge in Mina and around Al-Masjid Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca. Staying safe during crowd surges involves being alert to surroundings, adhering to designated lanes, avoiding walking against the direction of traffic, and knowing the nearest emergency exits and evacuation routes. Pilgrims should also be prepared for potential travel disruptions and increased demand for various services during this period.”

Hajj 2024 Health and Safety Guidelines for Organizations and Their Workforce:

– Encourage Vaccinations and Health Certification: All pilgrims must have proof of meningococcal disease vaccination. Ensure all routine vaccinations, including COVID-19 and seasonal influenza, are up to date. Depending on their country of origin, travelers may need to show proof of polio and yellow fever vaccinations. Registration on the ‘Sehaty’ app is mandatory to verify vaccination status and facilitate entry into the country.  

– Ensure Compliance with Regulations: Encourage employees to follow guidance provided by licensed Hajj operators for a safe and organized pilgrimage. Adhere to designated time slots allocated by authorities to minimize overcrowding risks.

– Offer Security Briefings and Heightened Situational Awareness: Provide pre-departure briefings on security protocols, situational awareness practices, and cultural sensitivities. Develop contingency plans to address potential travel disruptions during Hajj.

– Educate on Extreme Temperature Risks: To mitigate the effects of extreme temperatures, pilgrims should prioritize staying hydrated and wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to help regulate body temperature and reduce heat stress.

– Ensure Crowd and Emergency Preparedness: Provide employees with crowd management guides and tips for navigating densely populated areas. Encourage pilgrims to save emergency contact information for police, ambulance services, embassy officials, and local contacts on their mobile phones in case immediate assistance is needed.

By adhering to these guidelines, organizations can help ensure a safe and successful Hajj pilgrimage for their employees.