The Tabung Haji board, also known as the Pilgrims Fund Board, has made preparations for the medical needs of Malaysian Hajj pilgrims travelling to Mecca from August this year. The board announced on June 23 that 43 medical doctors, which would include 16 specialists and one dentist, as well as a medical centre, will be made available to the pilgrims while in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Tabung Haji board representative in Mecca, Datuk Redhuan Sabaruddin, stated that a total of 250 medical staff would be specifically brought into Saudi Arabia from Malaysia to aid Malaysian pilgrims.

It is thought that more than 22,000 Hajj pilgrims from Malaysia will make their way to the annual Muslim observance this year. The Hajj (Arabic for pilgrimage) has seen more than 2 million pilgrims visiting Mecca in recent years, with numbers expected to rise. Safety concerns amid accidents and diseases are a mainstay for many governments due to the large groups of people congregating in a small area for the limited period of time.

In 2012, health officials began reporting on the development of a new type of coronavirus which was traced back to the Kingdom of Jordan, although initial cases were found mostly in Saudi Arabia. Dubbed the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), it can spread like the common cold, with symptoms such as fever and coughs.

Records indicate that those with a compromised immune system might face complications from the virus, which would lead to death in some cases.

Another concern for the Hajj pilgrim is the almost yearly occurrence of stampedes, which kill hundreds of people every year. However, danger comes in other forms too as the most recent tragedy on September 11 in 2015 proved when a crawler crane collapsed on the grounds of the Grand Mosque. 111 people were killed.

The medical centre for Malaysian Hajj pilgrims will be operating from Medina, where many choose to go after completing their pilgrimage since it is considered the second holiest city. Pilgrims can find the centre at the Al-Jaffrey Tabung Haji building. Mecca too will have a medical centre, which will be located close to the three pillars in Mina where the ‘Stoning of the Devil’ ceremony occurs. Other clinics can also be found at ‘maktab’ or accommodation vicinities for Hajj pilgrims. MIMS