With a view to ensure quality health support to pilgrims, Ministry of Minority Affairs is collaborating with Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for comprehensive health arrangements for pilgrims planning to visit Makkah.
Each year Saudi Arabia hosts around 25 lakhs to 30 lakhs pilgrims from across the globe to visit Makkah and India sends the third largest contingent of pilgrims in the world. Such large number of pilgrims also poses unique public health challenges, and the medical requirements of the pilgrims in Makkah, Madinah, and Jeddah must be well-cared for.
While the number of pilgrims had shown a decreasing trend in last 3 years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year a larger number of Indian pilgrims are expected to visit Makkah. For the present year, a quota of 1,75,025 pilgrims has been allotted to India.
With a view to ensure comprehensive and quality services to the pilgrims, Minister of Minority Affairs & Minister of Health have undertaken a series of meetings accompanied by officials from both the Ministries. In last 3 months, more than 10 meetings have been organized on the subject between both the Ministries and a detailed plan of action has been finalized.
Medical Screening & Fitness Certificate
Ministry of Health accordingly has issued directions to all States on 21st March, wherein States have been advised to provide for Medical Screening & Fitness Certificate for applicant pilgrims and a detailed format for such screening has been sent to the States. With a view to aid the applicants, this year the Medical Screening & Fitness Certificate by the applicant can be issued by any Government allopathic medical doctor in the States/UTs. This will ease the process of getting the medical screening certificates across the country.
Health & Vaccination Camps
Further, it has been directed that states and district health authorities will also set up Camps for the selected pilgrims wherein the pre-departure detailed Medical Examination and Vaccination will also be provided. A Health Card for all the pilgrims will also be issued in these camps which will examine the selected pilgrims for their present health status, the existing diseases/co-morbidities, if any.
It is planned that the health status will be made available to the Medical Teams in Saudi Arabia through digital means for timely health service delivery in case of any emergency. Each State has accordingly been advised to nominate a Nodal Officer for coordinating the activities in collaboration with the State Minority Welfare Department.
Ministry of Health will procure and provide the required number of Quadrivalent Meningococcal Meningitis Vaccine (QMMV) & Seasonal Influenza Vaccines (SIV) to the pilgrims.
Health Desks at all Airports
Further, Health Desks will also be set up at all departing airports for coordinating health needs of the pilgrims during the departure.
Health Infrastructure in Saudi Arabia (Health Professionals, Equipment and Medicines)
With a view to plan the requirement of health infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is also sending a Team of senior clinicians during the first week of April 2023, to plan for the requirement of temporary hospitals, dispensaries, pharmacies & camps as needed in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Arafat & at the core ritual site of Mina. The Team will assess the requirement of specialists, doctors and paramedical staff based on their field assessment.
The Team will examine the need for medical equipment and medicines for these health facilities and the same will be procured and made available by Ministry of Health. To ensure quality, the available medicines from Jan Aushadhi stores will be procured and provided in these facilities.
Ministry of Health has also addressed all States & UTs to also obtain list of willing Government medical and paramedical professionals who will be selected based on the criteria of their experience, specialization & desirable qualifications for manning these health facilities. The selected health professionals will also be extensively oriented on the expected health needs of the pilgrims to ensure quality health service delivery.
The pilgrims will be screened for a wide range of medical issues in order to tackle any emergency effectively and quickly, which may arise during the pilgrimage.
The collaborative efforts done by Ministry of Minority Affairs and Ministry of Health is expected to ensure easing the process of obtaining Medical Screening and Fitness Certificates and vaccination besides timely and quality healthcare services from point of embarkation till their return back to India.