File – An officer gives water to an elderly hajj pilgrim in Medina, Saudi Arabia. (ANTARA/HO-MCH 2023)
Indonesia Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas has suggested that health checks for prospective Hajj pilgrims be carried out before they pay the Hajj Travel Expenses (BPIH) to reduce the number of pilgrims dying during the pilgrimage.
“Because the number of pilgrims who have died this year has been the largest since 2015. We really hope that next year, the number will be reduced with tightened health checks,” he said at a press conference at Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Tangerang, Banten, on Saturday.
He said that the physical and mental health of the hajj participants has become a crucial factor for his ministry in response to the high number of pilgrims’ deaths this year.
The health check is currently only carried out after the participants pay off the BPIH.
The officers often feel uncomfortable about not allowing Hajj pilgrims with high-risk health conditions to depart, he noted.
“Often, our officers feel bad about not allowing our Hajj pilgrims to depart even though they are in poor condition,” the minister said.
The ministry reported that as many as 773 Indonesian Hajj pilgrims died in Saudi Arabia during the 2023 Hajj pilgrimage: 752 regular Hajj pilgrims, 18 special Hajj pilgrims, and 3 furoda or non-quota Hajj pilgrims.
Based on age, the Hajj pilgrims who died during the pilgrimage were dominated by the elderly in the age range of 65 years and over (562 pilgrims), followed by the 60-64 age group (81 pilgrims), while the rest were less than 60 years old.
“We noted that there were 2 oldest Hajj pilgrims who died at the age of 98, while the youngest was 42 years old, totaling 6 people,” Qoumas informed.
He expressed hope that during discussions with Commission VIII of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR RI) regarding the evaluation of the 2023 Hajj pilgrimage, a decision will be reached on prioritizing the stages of health check requirements before Hajj fee payment.
“The most important thing is to conduct a health check first. If the prospective Hajj pilgrims are declared healthy and fit, they can pay off their Hajj fees,” he added.
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