Nepali Muslims to embark on their Hajj journey in a week, but government yet to vaccinate themHealth Ministry says it will fast-track the vaccine procurement process
Every year, Muslims from across the world, along with Nepali Muslims, travel to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, in an annual Islamic pilgrimage.
But before embarking on their journey, the pilgrims need to be vaccinated, as without certificates of immunisation, the host country (Saudi Arabia) does not allow Hajj pilgrims to visit Mecca.
There is only a week left for the 1,200 Nepali Muslims who are set to embark on their journey to get vaccinated, but the government is yet to finalise the tender process to procure the required vaccines.
The Management Division under the Department of Health Services has decided to purchase vaccines for Hajj pilgrims through a fast-track process this year also, according to officials.
“But time is limited so we have decided to procure vaccines by issuing a notice of five days,” Ramesh Adhikari, Chief of the division told the Post. “We cannot go through the normal tender procedure, as we always receive money for vaccines at the last hour.”
Hajj this year is expected to start from August 9, but pilgrims must embark on their journey by July 18.
Hajj pilgrims have to be immunised with inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), meningitis vaccine and influenza vaccine to go to the pilgrimage, and the government provides these vaccines free of cost. The Ministry of Home Affairs has allocated Rs 15 million to the Health Ministry to procure vaccines.
According to Adhikari, his office had tried its best to allocate the budget for Hajj pilgrims’ vaccination programmes, collect details and send them to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Finance for its approval. But those ministries did not pay heed to our proposal, he said.
As per the Public Procurement Act, all government agencies have to call tender, giving a 35-day notice for any procurement that exceeds one million rupees.
The Health Ministry said that it had allocated budget for next year’s Hajj programme to avoid the perennial problem. “We cannot do anything instead of buying vaccines through a fast-track process,” said Adhikari.