Hajj 2024: International SOS encourages organisations to prioritise pilgrim health and safety with new precautions

Hajj pilgrims praying in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

The annual Hajj pilgrimage, a global gathering attracting over 1.8 million participants last year1, is expected to take place in Saudi Arabia from 14 to 19 June 2024. Due to the large scale of the event, ensuring the health and safety of all pilgrims requires a focus on preventive measures. Meningococcal disease has been reported in travellers returning from Saudi Arabia, highlighting the importance of adhering to the requirements.2 International SOS, the world’s leading health and security services company, encourages organisations 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 the Saudi Arabian authorities, International SOS has developed a comprehensive guideline focused on ensuring pilgrims’ health, security and wellbeing. The guideline outlines crucial pre-travel considerations including several newly implemented requirements. It highlights the official permit and vaccination requirements, heat mitigation strategies as well as promoting vigilance and awareness of surroundings to ensure individual safety, particularly during crowd surges.

Mr Udit Mehta, Executive Vice President, Global Security Solutions, International SOS, said, “Ensuring compliance to all directives issued by local authorities in Saudi Arabia as well as home country government officials are critical for pilgrims undertaking Hajj. All appropriate approvals should be sought ahead of departure and the use of a trusted provider experienced in facilitating pilgrimage tours is highly recommended. Religious congregations like the Hajj are typically accompanied by large crowds which can pose peculiar challenges that necessitate mitigation measures.”

Dr Vikram Vora, Medical Director (Indian Subcontinent), International SOS stressed on how Hajj pilgrimage can be a difficult one – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Pilgrims setting out for Hajj are prone to numerous health challenges which need to be managed before, during and after travel. While preparing for Hajj, gradually building up endurance through daily exercise can help in preparing for walking long distances. As this journey relates to faith, large crowds and close contact can be expected, resulting in an increase the risk of transmission of infections. Hence, appropriate vaccination is recommended and should be taken before traveling. Carrying essential medication (especially if one suffers from chronic illnesses) is important.”

“Since the pilgrimage happens during summer, travellers are prone to heat-related illnesses, the risks of which increase in those who are older or more vulnerable due to pre-existing chronic disease conditions. The importance of adequate hydration and electrolyte balance during such times cannot be overstated. Make a conscious effort to drink a lot of water. Food safety is equally important. Do maintain good hand hygiene and wash fruits and vegetables carefully before consuming. Always eat freshly cooked food and use clean cutlery and plates. These tips can help you to remain healthy during your spiritual experience,” added Dr Vora.

Hajj 2024 health and safety guidelines for organisations and their workforce to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims:

  • Encourage employees undertaking Hajj to obtain vaccinations and health certification: All pilgrims are required to 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, travellers may be required to show proof of polio and yellow fever vaccination.
  • Registration on the ‘Sehaty’ app is mandatory to verify vaccination status and facilitate entry into the country for all pilgrims.
  • Ensure compliance with regulations: Encourage employees to always follow guidance provided by licensed Hajj operators for a safe and organised pilgrimage. Ensure they adhere to designated time slots allocated by authorities to help minimise 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 the Hajj.
  • Educate employees on risks of extreme temperatures: To mitigate the effects of potentially extreme temperatures, pilgrims should prioritise staying hydrated. Choosing lightweight and light-coloured clothing helps regulate body temperature and reduces heat stress.
  • Ensure crowd and emergency preparedness: Provide employees with crowd management guide with 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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *