Climate change has made Hajj more risky

Climate change has made Hajj more risky

Muslim pilgrims gather at the top of the rocky hill known as the Mount of Mercy in the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 15, 2024, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Muslim pilgrims gather at the top of the rocky hill known as the Mount of Mercy in the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saturday, June 15, 2024. | Photo credit: AP

Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world undertake the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This massive migration is unprecedented and pilgrims face a variety of health hazards.

Mecca is considered the holiest city for Muslims. And Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a mandatory religious duty for Muslims, they must perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able.

The Hajj pilgrimage of the year 2024 has been overshadowed by a disaster/tragedy in which one person has died. At least 900 pilgrimsMostly due to heat exhaustion and related complications.

This is not the first fatal disaster during Hajj

one of the most devastating events It occurred in 2015 during the “Rami al-Jamarat” ritual in Mina, near Mecca. In this ritual pilgrims throw stones at pillars symbolizing Satan. On that day, overcrowding and large groups of pilgrims going in opposite directions led to a deadly crowd stampede. More than 2,400 pilgrims lost their lives, making it one of the deadliest disasters in the history of the Hajj or any mass gathering.

Another incident of mass casualties occurred in 1990, Al-Maisam pedestrian tunnel near MeccaVentilation failure and the massive crowd of pilgrims caused suffocating conditions inside the tunnel; 1,426 pilgrims died.

There have been other incidents during the Hajj pilgrimage in the past few years. In 1994About 270 pilgrims died in a stampede near Jamarat Bridge. Hajj of 1998 In another stampede, 118 pilgrims were killed.

In the past half century, More than 9,000 people have died in mass religious gatheringsOf these, more than 5,000 deaths have occurred during Haj in Saudi Arabia. In India, at least 2,200 deaths have occurred in about 40 tragic incidents. These two countries are the epicenters of such tragedies.

Why is Hajj pilgrimage so risky?

With millions of pilgrims gathering in a limited area, Overcrowding and crowd-pressure accidents This situation is further worsened by the high emotion and passion associated with pilgrimages. Pilgrims perform rituals with intense devotion and zeal, which sometimes leads to panic attacks. leading to overexertion,

Another factor is this Age of the PilgrimsMany are elderly people who have saved money for years to afford this spiritual journey. Their advancing age makes them particularly vulnerable to the harsh conditions and physical demands of the pilgrimage. The intense heat, long hours of walking and the physical strain of performing the rituals can take their toll. making existing health problems more severe And new complications may arise.

Overcrowding also increases health risks, especially infectious diseaseInfectious diseases such as SARS, avian influenza and meningococcal disease pose a threat. Significant dangers during Hajj in the past,

High temperatures make mass gatherings risky

A Studies documenting deaths and injuries Data on deaths at mass gatherings as of 2019 show that, whereas sporting events accounted for the most fatalities in the 1980s, such events are now rare, while deaths during religious pilgrimages, particularly in India and Saudi Arabia, are becoming more common.

Although most deaths during the Hajj are caused by crowd crushes and stampedes, a new danger has emerged: Extreme ClimateThe climate in Saudi Arabia can be very harsh. Temperatures during this year's pilgrimage reached 50 degrees Celsius.

Saudi Arab Temperatures are rising at a rate 50% greater than the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. The decade from 2010 to 2019 was the hottest on record, with more frequent and more severe heatwaves. This rising temperature, combined with high humidity, makes conditions intolerable without artificial cooling.

The timing of the Hajj pilgrimage is determined according to the lunar Islamic calendar, which means it occurs about 10 to 11 days earlier each year than it would in the Gregorian calendar. This means the Hajj can take place in different seasons over the 33-year cycle. Currently, the Hajj is being held in the summer months, which poses a risk of extreme heat.

Saudi Arabia also Increase in extreme rainfall events observed In recent years, particularly in late summer and fall. Torrential rain and storm Areas like Mecca and Jeddah have been hit by heavy flooding.

As climate patterns continue to evolve, such rainfall may coincide with the Hajj season, posing additional risks to pilgrims.

What can be done to reduce the risk?

Unlike concerts or sporting events, the Hajj pilgrimage cannot be rescheduled or moved. Being outdoors is an integral part of the Hajj.

It is very important for Hajj pilgrims to perform Hajj rituals properly, only then their pilgrimage will be accepted. Islamic teachingsThe Hajj pilgrimage must be performed strictly following its customs and timings. Any omission or deviation may render the pilgrimage invalid.

Saudi Arab Ministry of Health has been implemented Various measuresInvolved Encouraging vaccinationHealth check-ups and educational campaigns urging pilgrims to stay hydrated, use umbrella And avoid staying in the sun for a long time.

The ministry has deployed thousands of paramedics and other personnel. Establishing a regional hospital To manage the crisis. Cooling Measures Such as Misting System And portable water station used.

Yet the extreme heat left people distressed, suggesting more work needs to be done. Educational campaigns (especially non-locals) could do more to raise awareness of heat dangers and preventive measures among pilgrims and healthcare workers.

Introduction of new technologies such as Smart bracelet to monitor health of pilgrims This may lead to further increase in medical responses.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Original article,

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