2023 Hajj: 14 Nigerian pilgrims die in Saudi Arabia


The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has reported that 14 Nigerian pilgrims have passed away in Saudi Arabia during the ongoing 2023 hajj operation. Usman Galadima, the Chief of Operations and Head of the NAHCON National Medical Team, shared this information during a post-Arafat meeting with stakeholders in Makkah, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

According to Mr. Galadima, seven pilgrims died before the Arafat ritual, six died during the five-day Mashair (core Hajj period), and an additional person passed away after the Arafat. The specific causes of their deaths were not mentioned in the report.

The NAHCON, in collaboration with relevant authorities, takes measures to ensure the well-being and safety of Nigerian pilgrims during their Hajj journey. Despite these unfortunate losses, efforts continue to provide necessary medical care and support to the remaining pilgrims and maintain a safe environment throughout the pilgrimage.

According to Usman Galadima, the Chief of Operations and Head of the NAHCON National Medical Team, there were six reported deaths during the Mashair (core Hajj period), four deaths in Arafat, and two deaths in Mina, bringing the total number of recorded deaths to 14. He mentioned that there were seven deaths before the Arafat ritual, and he was informed of another death during the meeting.

Galadima also noted that the mortality rate is similar to that of 2019, indicating that the current year’s hajj operation did not experience a significant increase in mortality compared to previous years.

In addition to the deaths, the medical team recorded three cases of chickenpox during the core hajj period. The affected pilgrims were promptly moved out of the area to prevent the spread of the disease.

Furthermore, the medical team assisted in two deliveries during the hajj ritual period in Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah. One delivery occurred on the road, while the second one took place in a clinic, ensuring the safe delivery of the newborns.

The NAHCON and the medical team continue to provide necessary medical services and take proactive measures to ensure the health and well-being of Nigerian pilgrims during the hajj operation.

Usman Galadima emphasized the importance of conducting a comprehensive pre-hajj medical screening for all pilgrims and issuing them a certificate of medical fitness. This screening helps identify any health conditions or risks that could affect the pilgrims during the hajj operation.

He also mentioned that elderly and severely ill pilgrims should be discouraged from participating in the symbolic stoning of the devil at Jamrat due to the physical stress involved. This precautionary measure aims to ensure the well-being and safety of these individuals.

During the meeting, Alhaji Goni Sanda, the Head of Aviation at NAHCON, announced that the transportation of pilgrims back to Nigeria will commence on Tuesday, July 4. He stated that the policy of “first in, first out” will be strictly followed in the evacuation process, ensuring that the pilgrims are transported back to Nigeria in the order of their arrival.

These measures and arrangements are put in place to prioritize the health, safety, and smooth return of Nigerian pilgrims after completing their hajj rites in Saudi Arabia.

According to Alhaji Goni Sanda, the Head of Aviation at NAHCON, the Saudi authorities have implemented a policy in the first two weeks of the transportation period to ensure smooth and efficient operations. During this time, air carriers will not operate at full capacity due to the high volume of traffic and the large number of aircraft involved in evacuating pilgrims from different countries. Additionally, all planes will depart from the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.

Flynas, one of the air carriers, will initially utilize only four out of its six aircraft for the transportation operation. The other two aircraft are undergoing checks and maintenance. This arrangement is made to accommodate the operational demands and ensure the safe and timely return of pilgrims.

Furthermore, Alhaji Abdullahi Hardawa, the Commissioner of Operations at NAHCON, emphasized the importance of adhering to the luggage policy during the return journey to Nigeria. He recalled a breach in 2022 and stated that such breaches would not be tolerated this year. He specifically mentioned the issue of pilgrims, particularly females, carrying multiple bags as hand luggage. He warned that this practice would not be accepted and called on officials of state pilgrims boards to inform the pilgrims about the policy to avoid any inconvenience or unnecessary delays at the airport.

These measures and guidelines aim to facilitate a seamless and organized operation during the transportation of pilgrims back to Nigeria, ensuring compliance with regulations and minimizing any potential issues or disruptions.

Alhaji Abdullahi Hardawa, the Commissioner of Operations at NAHCON, expressed the airline operators’ concerns regarding the behavior of some pilgrims and the risks it poses to other passengers on the aircraft. He emphasized that such behavior would not be tolerated this time.

To prevent the loss of valuables at the airport, Alhaji Hardawa urged pilgrims to comply with the luggage policy, which allows for a maximum of 32kg of luggage. Alternatively, he suggested that pilgrims consider utilizing the cargo window for any additional or excess baggage.

These measures aim to ensure the safety and convenience of all passengers and streamline the transportation process for the returning pilgrims. It is important for pilgrims to adhere to the luggage policy and cooperate with the airport authorities and airline operators to facilitate a smooth and efficient return journey.

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