The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced its plan to adopt the use of electronic identification bracelets for all pilgrims heading to Mecca for Hajj as part of a safety drive.
Last year over 750 Muslim pilgrims of various nationalities died in a stampede in the Mecca district of Mina during the annual Hajj, 54 of whom were reported to be Nigerians.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the water-resistant e-bracelets will contain personal and medical information of all pilgrims, and will help authorities identify and provide care for people.
The bracelets will be connected to GPS and will also have a multi-lingual help desk to guide non-Arabic speaking pilgrims around the different rituals of the event, and also instruct worshippers on timings of prayers.
Close to a thousand new surveillance cameras have also been installed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca to monitor the movements of pilgrims. This is to address security, which has also been a problem apart from safety.
A timeline of Hajj stampedes
The annual Muslim pilgrimage to mecca has been plagued by so many disasters in recent years:
2006 – 364 pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the stoning of the devil ritual in Mina.
2004 – 244 people were killed in Mina during the stoning of the devil ritual.
1998 – At least 180 people were trampled to death in Mina
1994 – There was a death record of 270 pilgrims
1990 – Over 1400 pilgrims died in a stampede in an overcrowded tunnel that led to the holy sites in Mecca.
Significance of Hajj
Annually, millions of Muslims converge in Saudi Arabia to participate in the six-day ritual; one of the largest gatherings of people in the world. Partaking in Hajj is one of the five duties – the five pillars of Islam – incumbent on every Muslim. Muslims are required to take part in the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime “as long as they are physically and financially capable of making the expensive and difficult journey.”
Credit: Ventures Africa