Addressing Mass Gathering Medicine Conference, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques affirms Hajj and Umrah are of grave importance to Saudi Arabia

King orders hosting 1300 Muslims to perform Hajj rituals at Saudi Arabia’s expense

Governor of Makkah launches “No Hajj Without License” awareness campaign

Under the patronage of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Mass Gathering Medicine International Conference was concluded this week.

The conference was attended by more than 500 experts and 30 speakers and specialists from various countries of the world and organizations.

The conference issued 'The Jeddah Declaration for Mass Gathering Medicine.'

The declaration thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for patronizing the conference.

The declaration included a number of recommendations concerning mass gathering medicine.

The Director General of Health Affairs and Intervention-Emergencies in British Columbia District in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Tony Hamburi has commended the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud for calling for the convening of the First Global Forum on Mass-Gathering Medicine in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, noting that the Kingdom is a model state in dealing with mass gatherings.

In her participation in the Conference currently in progress in Jeddah, she has praised Saudi exemplary experiments in management of mass gatherings in Hajj, noting that mass gatherings whether in Makkah or other cities around the world include shared elements dealing with public health, preservation of security, provision of services, and prevention of infectious diseases resulting from mass gatherings.

Director-General of World Health Organization Dr. Margaret Chan expressed thanks to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for holding the Mass Gathering Medicine International Conference under his patronage.

Dr. Chan praised the king for leading the kingdom and its people to the level of the advanced countries.

Her remarks came during her meeting this week with Minister of Health Dr. Abdullah Alrabaia'ah.

Saudi Arabia received four million Umrah pilgrims this year, and the record number was for the first time in its history, Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsi announced.

Addressing an international conference on mass gathering medicine, he said the government helped these large numbers of pilgrims to perform their religious rituals in ease and comfort.

'During the Hajj season, we receive 75 foreign Hajj missions and pilgrims belonging to 180 countries,' the minister said speaking at a roundtable seminar, according to a report published by Arab News.

On his part Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz bin Muhaydin Khoja commended the success achieved by Saudi Arabia in enlightening pilgrims and managing large number of worshippers during the Hajj and Umrah seasons.

'It is not an easy task. We are dealing with millions of people who speak different languages and are having different cultures and lifestyles,' he said.

Dr. Khoja also noted the success achieved by the Kingdom in dealing with swine flu pandemic during the last Hajj season.

He stressed the need for coordination and cooperation with regional and international organizations such as the World Health Organization.

Over 21,000 people have been mobilized to implement Makkah municipality's plans for Hajj 2010 and make the annual event a huge success, said the city's Mayor Osama Al-Bar.

"We have mobilized around 21,650 people to implement the plan in various fields. In order to keep Makkah's central area around the Holy Mosque clean and tidy, there will be over 7,000 cleaners who will be provided with equipment to work around the clock," he said.

Al-Bar said the municipality would implement the plan in coordination and cooperation with all agencies and government departments concerned including the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, police and the Guides Organization.

"University students and health institutes will be hired to work as temporary health monitors. There will also be central units to deal with emergency situations such as rain, flash floods, rockslides, fires and the like," he was quoted as saying in a report published by in the web-site of the Ministry of Hajj.

"Some 200 electric compressors will be used to dispose of garbage. During the Hajj days, there will be over 6,000 cleaners working round the clock in Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat," he said, adding that the cleaners will be strictly monitored and supervised.

The municipality also has some 1,310 rubbish bins with a total capacity to collect more than 1,300 tons of garbage at the holy sites during the Hajj. The Hajj plan also includes a string of measures to ensure a healthy environment during the annual pilgrimage. "The monitoring and supervision of markets, stores, fast-food outlets and restaurants will also be beefed up," he said.

There are about 2,300 commercial shops and stores for foodstuffs in Makkah and around 2,229 temporary stores will be set up in the city during the pilgrimage. This is in addition to some 643 temporary shops, stalls, bakeries and barber shops that will be set up in the holy sites.

"The officials concerned will monitor all these places and ensure that they are meeting the required health and safety standards. Samples of all foodstuffs will be tested at the designated laboratories, and the expired foodstuffs will be seized," he said.

Referring to sacrificial animals, Al-Bar said that a comprehensive plan is in place to monitor all animals brought to slaughterhouses in line with established health and safety standards.

"Some 57 centers have been set up at various entry points to the city to monitor the animals. Moreover, teams of vets will carry out field inspections to prevent outbreaks of any contagious diseases among the animals as well as to ensure that they are fit for consumption," he said.

He added that the slaughterhouses in the holy sites have a total capacity to slaughter half a million animals.

King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud has issued his order to host 1,300 Muslims from a number of countries around the world to perform Hajj this year 1431H, within the Hosting Program, supervised by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance.

The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh, who is also General Supervisor of the Hosting Program said the total number amounted to 15,368 pilgrims hosted by the Program since its inception until last Hajj season,1430H.

He noted that this royal initiative stresses the keenness and attention paid by the King for Muslims around the world.

The fifth floor of the high tech Jamarat Bridge in Mina will be open to pilgrims this Hajj season, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs said.

"The opening of the fifth floor will facilitate the stoning ritual at Jamarat," said Habeeb Zainul Abideen, deputy minister for municipal and rural affairs.

Abideen was addressing a conference on medicine attended by 500 delegates. He described Hajj as the largest congregation of people in the world. He urged all pilgrims to follow safety instructions.

There are 90 cameras around Jamarat to monitor the movement of pilgrims and prevent possible stampedes. These cameras will also enable Hajj managers to assess how many pilgrims each floor of the bridge can hold.

"We have also arranged for vehicles to carry pilgrims with special needs to help them perform the stoning ritual without any difficulty," he was quoted as saying in a press statement published this week.

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Makkah Province, chaired the meeting of Hajj Central Committee.

During the meeting, the plans and services for this year Hajj season will be discussed.

In the wake of the tremendous success achieved by the previous two campaigns which resulted in reducing the number of Over-stayers and residents who go to Hajj without permits, the campaign is being organized under the direct supervision of the Governor of Makkah Province.

All government agencies and private organizations engaged in this year's Hajj are taking part in the campaign, according to a report published by Saudi Gazette.