Saudi Issues Health Requirements To Nigeria And 22 Other Countries For Hajj
Late August marks the beginning of the Hajj season – the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca – bringing together people from all over the world. While a holy time of pilgrimage, this also presents health risks as people are coming together from many countries where they may have been exposed to different infectious diseases.
The Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia has issued health requirements and recommendations for entry into Saudi Arabia during the Hajj season, including requirements relating to polio vaccination. Regardless of age, all travellers from certain, specified countries must show proof of vaccination against polio within the last twelve months, and at least four weeks before departure. All travellers from these countries will also receive one dose of oral polio vaccine on arrival in Saudi Arabia.
These countries include Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Niger, Sierra Leone and South Sudan, all from the World Health Organisation (WHO) African Region.
Others are Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syrian Arab Republic, and Yemen from WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region; Myanmar from WHO South-East Asian Region; Lao People’s Democratic Republic from WHO Western Pacific Region; and Ukraine from WHO European Region.
According to a report published yesterday by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), “Protect against polio this Hajj, ”eradicating polio would have a long-lasting impact, saying: “Polio eradication will generate savings of US$50 billion (N20 trillion) over the next 20 years. The polio programme is taking steps to ensure that the knowledge acquired, the tools developed and the infrastructure established by the polio programme would continue to benefit other child health challenges long after polio is gone.”
The GPEI said polio remains endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. “Until poliovirus transmission is interrupted in these countries, all countries remain at risk of importation of polio, especially vulnerable countries with weak public health and immunization services and travel or trade links to endemic countries.”
According to the GPEI: “If polio is not eradicated, we could see a global resurgence of the disease, with as many as 200,000 new cases each year within a decade. The programme must remain vigilant and strive for continued improvement to stop it once and for all.”