LAGOS – The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria has dismissed earlier reports that Saudi government would be banning Nigerians from this year’s hajj after the spread of Lassa fever in 18 states.
“The attention of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria has been drawn to the publication on some social media platforms and some online platforms that the Saudi Arabian authorities are threatening to block Nigerian pilgrims from attending the 2018 Hajj,” the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, was quoted by Vanguard on Friday, April 27.
“We read with dismay the story and we want to allay the fear of Nigerians especially the intending pilgrims that no such decision has been taken nor was there any plan of such.
“We, therefore, assure Nigerians and intending pilgrims of our commitment to the continuous improvement of services to the Nigerian pilgrims. Nigeria has one of the largest contingents in the annual religious exercise with about 95,000 pilgrims.”
The outbreak of Lassa fever has been reported in a number of states in the country.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1081 suspected cases and 90 deaths have been reported in 18 states (Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba) between January 1 through February 25 this year.
WHO, however, said in a report Sunday that there is a steady decline in Lassa fever cases and deaths from 70 by February 18 to five by April 15.
Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, also announced on Thursday that the country is on the verge of tackling the Lassa fever outbreak.
There was only “one case last week through out the country,” he said.
“By tomorrow we are in a position to declare Nigeria zero of Lassa fever. The week before, we had five, last week, one,” he added.
On Hajj 2018 pilgrims, Adewole said his ministry is working with state governments to ensure that “all intending pilgrims are properly screened off and a sign of fever before they are allowed to travel.”
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several rituals, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Lassa fever, also known as Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LHF), is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus.
The risk of death once infected is about one percent and frequently occurs within two weeks of the onset of symptoms.