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WHO Hails Success of Hajj Season, Commends Saudi Health Measures

WHO Hails Success of Hajj Season, Commends Saudi Health Measures

Saturday, 17 August, 2019 - 06:45
FILE PHOTO: Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca September 27, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat

The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulated the Government of Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Health for successfully hosting the hajj season 2019 without a single public health event or disease outbreak being reported among pilgrims performing the hajj.

WHO expressed its deep appreciation to all the health care heroes and volunteers for their dedication in providing health care services to 2.5 million pilgrims. WHO deployed a team of experts to support the Ministry of Health and ensure public health preparedness measures to prevent any potential disease outbreaks.

Hajj this year came at a time of numerous threats to global public health, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

WHO recently recognized the outbreak of Ebola as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), requiring a global response. Moreover, cholera, measles, polio and other infectious diseases are being reported from many countries participating in the hajj, highlighting the need for early detection of, and timely response to, public health emergencies.

The Health Early Warning System (HEWS) tool was developed by the Saudi Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO to facilitate detection and response.

This year, more than 100 alert signals were detected through the new tool. All signals were investigated immediately, and appropriate interventions were then implemented. Happily, none of the signals represented a public health emergency.

As part of the HEWS system, the health authorities issued daily situation updates, reflecting the Saudi authorities’ strong commitment to transparency.

The Saudi authorities were well prepared to prevent and respond to the risks related to mass-gatherings, such as heat illnesses and food poisoning. The high level of preparedness reduced the number of cases to the minimum, and no major health issues were detected among the pilgrims during this year’s hajj.

WHO worked with the Saudi authorities to assess health facilities in the Holy Places using standard WHO tools.

According to SPA, WHO and Saudi authorities call on all countries to commit to the Hajj-related health requirements.

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