Published: May 23, 2011 23:57 Updated: May 23, 2011 23:57
RIYADH: The Kingdom instructed all its overseas missions Monday to follow a set of health guidelines in issuing Haj visas for pilgrims.
Over two million pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia each year on Haj visas issued by Saudi embassies and consulates abroad.
“The Ministry of Health has sent out circulars through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to all the Saudi missions urging them to adhere strictly to the guidelines while issuing visas,” Health Ministry Spokesman Dr. Khalid Al-Mirghalani told Arab News Monday.
He was speaking following the first meeting of the Haj Preparatory Committee of the Health Ministry under the chairmanship of Mohammed Al-Khosheim, undersecretary for the ministry’s Planning and Development Department.
The meeting reviewed previous year’s performance of the Haj committee with a focus on preventive and curative operations undertaken by the ministry during the 2010 Haj season. Based on this experience, the committee set out new programs that are to be implemented during the forthcoming season.
Al-Mirghalani pointed out that some of the diseases that occur among pilgrims are imported due to lack of preventive measures taken by the foreign pilgrims and their respective governments. The ministry also advised the missions to request overseas Haj travel operators to organize orientation programs to inform pilgrims about the basic health rules they should follow during their stay in the holy cities. The ministry requires pilgrims, depending on their countries of origin, to produce vaccination certificates against yellow fever, meningitis, polio and influenza.
“For example, most of the pilgrims from Africa and South America have been advised vaccinations against yellow fever which is endemic there,” he said. He singled out vaccinations against meningitis that are now compulsory for all pilgrims since it is spread by infected people sneezing in crowd-filled areas. He added that children between two and 15 should be given the oral dose of polio vaccine before their departure to the Kingdom.
Vaccination against meningitis is valid for three years and the pilgrims have been advised to take the injection at least 10 days before their departure for the holy cities. He said food poisoning and influenza are common health problems faced by the pilgrims.
On arrival at the Haj Terminal, the spokesman explained, the pilgrims should tell the Saudi authorities about any chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension asthma, cardiac and kidney ailments so that details could be entered in their medical files that would be used in case of emergencies.
To serve the pilgrims, he said, there are some 2,700 beds at the health facilities in Makkah during the season. There are 21 government hospitals in the pilgrim areas — three in Arafat, four in Mina, seven in Makkah and seven in Madinah. There are also 123 primary health care centers and 21 private and public sector hospitals in Madinah to look after the pilgrims.
Source: Arab News