Published — Saturday 17 November 2012
Last update 16 November 2012 8:37 pm
I would like to share with you health and safety concerns that I have following my recent Haj pilgrimage. I think more health and safety warnings need to be given to help people prepare, but there are also matters that need to be raised with the Saudi government. These comments are sent with good will as I am also aware of the huge amount of investment that has gone into trying to ensure safety for all pilgrims. There is no doubt the authorities do their best to provide the best services to millions of pilgrims which is commendable and unparalleled. However, I would like to draw the attention of the authorities to look into areas where improvement can be made.
The sanitation at Mina is a genuine health and safety risk with so many people in close proximity. The combined toilets/showers with open gaps at the bottom of partitions means soiled water comes in from the cubicle next to you. Feces can be seen on the cubicle floors at times. There have to be more toilet blocks. There need to be more facilities for women. There is no cleaning of the toilets and showers. The litter and food waste builds up in the streets and there is clearly little management of what is going on other than occasional clear ups. The coaches cannot get through and when they do they leave their engines running with air pollution an additional problem.
The stoning of the Jamarat is a real issue. The walk through the tunnels is difficult, air quality in the tunnels deteriorates later in the day. There is no drinking water available in the tunnels but most worrying is the apparent lack of a service tunnel so in an emergency there is no quick access for emergency services.
There is little or no management of crowds at the Jamarat. It was life threatening with unregulated crowds entering the area, and then a bottleneck on the way out with people struggling to get across to exist. This was the most serious problem area.
There needs to be a system of traffic lights coordinated through all of the tunnels to the movement of people can be managed. Muzdalifah is a serious problem. The constant arrival and departure of coaches is making this a huge health hazards with dust and fumes affecting air quality. We were not prepared for this — the sense was of a night sleeping in the desert under the stars — the reality was sleeping on what felt more like a sandy car park under floodlights amidst dust and fumes.
My wife and I both returned with chest infections and we have both had to have courses of antibiotics and other medication — it hasn't cleared yet for either of us. There is a real risk of people with infections coming back and going to their local mosques and spreading illness. We have deliberately kept away from our local mosque for this reason.
Finally, there has got to be some kind of consideration given regarding flu risk. We had our flu jabs, but that will not minimize the risk of seasonal flu strains from around the world coming together at Mina and creating more problematic strains. Mina is, in my view, a global flu pandemic health risk and this has got to be given serious thought. — Richard Bryant-Jefferies, Epsom, England