Heat-stricken pilgrims

Editorial June 21, 2024


The sacred event of Hajj is facing an incredibly formidable challenge of heatwaves. As this year’s pilgrimage coincides with the sweltering Saudi summer, the health and safety of the pilgrims have become critical concerns. With temperatures soaring as high as an unprecedented 51.8 degrees Celsius, the holy city of Makkah has witnessed a significant rise in heat-related health issues.

At least 922 pilgrims lost their lives, with many others suffering from severe heat exhaustion. These figures, though alarming, only hint at the broader challenges faced by the 1.8 million Hajj pilgrims, many of whom were elderly or had pre-existing health conditions. While the Saudi government has not given an official figure on the death toll, the Saudi Ministry of Health has reported over 2,700 cases of heat exhaustion occurring in a single day. Media reports say that the fatalities included at least 600 Egyptians, 144 Indonesians, 68 Indians, 60 Jordanians, 35 Pakistanis, 35 Tunisians, 11 Iranians and three Senegalese. Such extreme climate events may render traditional practices, which involve long walks and outdoor activities, life-threatening in the future. Thus, in order to safeguard the health and well-being of future pilgrims, it is essential to enhance infrastructure and support systems during Hajj. Increasing shaded areas, installing misting stations and creating designated cooling zones can provide much-needed relief from the oppressive heat. Additionally, ensuring the availability of emergency response teams is necessary to quell sudden panic. Public awareness is equally important. Educating pilgrims about the dangers of extreme heat and providing practical advice on how to stay safe can also help save lives.

The increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves are clear indicators of the broader impacts of climate change. As global temperatures rise, the mobility of people around the world is being profoundly affected. Such extreme weather events not only pose immediate health risks but also disrupt traditional patterns of movement and travel. The world must respond accordingly.



Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ