A member of the Ogun State Adhoc Committee on 2023 Hajj and the Chairman of the sub-committee on Hajj, Tunde Oladunjoye, has shed more light on the pervasion of illness among many Nigerian pilgrims during this year’s Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
Within Nigeria had reported how no fewer than 14 pilgrims died during this year’s Hajj and 41,000 fell ill.
The head of the Nigerian medical team for the pilgrimage, Dr Usman Galadima, gave the lowdown on Sunday in Makkah during the post-Arafat review session.
But speaking in an interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday, Oladunjoye said the unusual high rate of sick Pilgrims could be attributed to many factors.
He noted that it was the first pilgrimage after the Kingdom of Saudi lifted all COVID-19 protocols.
He disclosed that being exposed to harsh weather and thousands of people at the same time were part of what worsen the pilgrims health conditions.
According to him, this years hajj witnessed the highest number of participants and also the hottest weather.
“Let me state generally that this year’s hajj, according to the Saudi authorities, witnessed the highest number of pilgrims in the history of hajj. Why? It is the first hajj after the total relaxation of Covid 19 protocols. A lot of people who could not come since 2020 participated this year.
“Additionally, this year has probably the hottest weather condition with outside temperatures ranging from 41% to 51%.
“So the weather is part of it; the change of environment. You can also not rule out the psychological effect of people in a new environment, people who have never seen beyond 1,000 people as a crowd now see about one million together. So, a lot of factors contributed,” Oladunjoye, who spoke with our correspondent on Wednesday, said.
On measures to prevent reoccurrence, he said Ogun State had emplaced stringent medical checks since 2019.
“In Ogun State, we embark on stringent medical checks and our pilgrims can affirm this. It is a practice that has been enhanced since 2019 when Prince Dapo Abiodun took over as governor of Ogun State. I have been a member of the committee since then.
“We have been strict and stringent and we engage in regular seminars for the pilgrims before departure and while on pilgrimage we organise daily lectures,” he added.
When asked if intending pilgrims may be denied the opportunity to perform the religious rites if found unfit after medical checks, he said, “What the injunction on pilgrimage states is that it is for those who can afford it and those who are fit.”