Medical volunteers help Hajj pilgrims beat the heat

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A medic examines a pilgrim during a routine health check at the Hajj pilgrimage. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)
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Medics examine a pilgrim during a routine health check at the Hajj pilgrimage. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)
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A medic examines a pilgrim as his son watches on during a routine health check at the Hajj pilgrimage. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)
Updated 11 August 2019

Medical volunteers help Hajj pilgrims beat the heat

  • Teams work in shifts from 8 a.m. until midnight

MAKKAH: The Hajj pilgrimage is one of Islam’s most important rituals, and for many Muslims, the spiritual journey is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

And this year, with just over 2 million pilgrims from around the world performing Hajj, the pressure is on to ensure a smooth and safe pilgrimage.

One of the many unsung heroes of Hajj this year is Mohannad Saber, a volunteer physician working with a team of nurses and medical students helping worshippers on their spiritual journey.

“This is a big opportunity to serve God’s guests and to serve Muslims,” Saber told Arab News.

Saber said that most of the cases he deals with are due to sunstroke. Temperatures in Makkah in August can reach 40 Celsius.

“Up to 70 percent of patients come with heatstroke, 10 percent with stomach complaints, while 10 or 15 percent have minor injuries and cuts,” he said.

Cases of serious illness or injury are rare and are handled by the nearest hospital.

So far, Saber and his team have faced only one serious case, a patient with heart problems who was sent to hospital immediately.

The volunteer doctor explained that there are multiple medical clinics and hospitals nearby to deal with critical cases.

Pilgrims performing Hajj are not charged any medical fees for any health emergency.

“It’s all free, we are all volunteers here,” Saber said.

Teams work in shifts from 8 a.m. until midnight, with a doctor and nurse on call for emergencies.

Apart from heatstroke, the most common complaint is back pain from carrying heavy loads.

“For Hajjis, the most important thing is to take care of yourself, and I would say fluids, fluids, fluids,” he said.

“Even if you are not thirsty, take a lot of fluids. Even if you are young, even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink as much as you can.”

Symptoms of heatstroke include severe sweating and a high body temperature. The elderly, children and pregnant women are particularly at risk. 


Saudi minister of foreign affairs receives US envoy to Riyadh

Updated 59 min 52 sec ago

Saudi minister of foreign affairs receives US envoy to Riyadh

  • US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid visited Adel Al-Jubeir on Monday

RIYADH: US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid called on Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir on Monday. During the meeting, they reviewed bilateral relations between the two friendly countries and discussed issues of mutual interest.

Al-Jubeir also held a separate meeting with a delegation of the US EastWest Institute, which was led by John Hurley. During the meeting, which was attended by a number of officials, they reviewed historical Saudi-US ties and the Kingdom’s stances on different regional and international issues.