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Proceedings of the first conference on mass gathering in Health at Karbala in Iraq

People of every race, country, gender, age, faith, religion and belief will be seen in Karbala and the extent of their love is that they walk eighty five kilometers from Najaf to Karbala to take part in a special pilgrimage ritual, culminating in what is arguably the world’s largest public gathering. The earth of Karbala annually sees millions of pilgrims from around the world gather for the Arbaeen commemoration.

Apart from this (Najaf to Karbala), people from far away places in Iraq, Iran reach here by traveling for several months and return after visiting Imam Hussain (AS), the pilgrims trek hundreds of kilometres from cities around Iraq and Iran to the holy city of Karbala where they commemorate the death in battle of Imam Hussein (AS). Those who make the trip from distant cities, like Mashhad in Iran – 2,600km (1,600 miles) away – opt to drive. Imam Hussain (a.s.) was the grandson of the Messenger the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) and son of Imam Ali (AS) and the inheritor of the knowledge of the Qur’an, so he did not accept Yazid as the rightful heir of the Muslims, so he fought with courage and determination against him and was martyred in 680 AD along with his loyal companions on the plains of Karbala in a battle of right and falsehood against the forces of the tyrant rural Yazid, whose ascendancy to the caliphate was contested.

To mark the 40th day of mourning for Imam- e Hussain (AS) the traditional mourning period – the pilgrims arrive in Karbala to pay tribute at his shrine, which is surrounded by millions on the final day of Arbaeen. It is called Imam-e-Ishq after martyrdom, because what Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) did is not for the people of intellect.

First Conference on Arbaeen in Health at Karbala

The University of Warith Al-Anbiyaa, affiliated with the Imam Hussain Holy Shrine, organized the first International Conference for the management of mass gathering in Karbala, in collaboration with local authorities. Delegates from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, UK, Canada, Australia, Europe and many other countries were there to participate and share their views, how to make this Arabeen safer for the pilgrims of Imam e Hussain (AS).

The conference held from August 25-27, 2023, was a unique event that aimed to discuss and share knowledge about the health aspects of Arbaeen, a major religious gathering in Iraq. It brought together experts and scholars from around the world who discussed health needs of pilgrims, disease prevention and control, and the impact of Arbaeen on mental health. The event provided a valuable insights and recommendations for improving the health of pilgrims participating in the Arbaeen ceremony.

On the first day meeting was held at AL-Sabtain University, which serves as the International Branch of Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) in Iraq. The distinguished speakers in the session included. Prof. Abdul-Ridha Pazooki, President of Iran University of Medical Science, Prof. Faris Al-Lami, President of AL-Sabtain, the International Branch of Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) in Iraq. Dr. Munther AL-Kadhimi spoke on “Risk Assessment for Ensuring the Safety and Security of People during AL – Arbaeen Pilgrimage” Dr. Zainab Tamnaee discussed “Heart Attacks during AL – Arbaeen Pilgrimage – Crowd Medicine. Dr. Ali Al-Mubarqa’ made a presentation on “Previewing the Services of Medical Directorate of Popular Mobilization and the Champion of the Victories During the Battle Against ISIS”, Mr. Hamed Al-Khaqani spoke on “The Importance of Efforts and Intelligence Information in Ensuring the Safety of Pilgrims” , Dr. Abrar AL-Noori discussed “Comparative Study of the Medical Crowds’ Requirements Between the Treatment Supervisors’ Vision and the Crowd’s Vision”, Mr. Jalali spoke on “The Natural and Biological Threats to the Safety of Al- Arbaeen Pilgrims” while Dr. Dhafir Fadhel discussed “The Services of the Popular Mobilization Medical Unit in the Million-Pilgrimage Visits (Al- Arbaeen Pilgrimage as a Model)”.

In the formal inaugural session Chairman of the Popular Mobilization Committee welcomed the participants. The Governor of Karbala in his address expressed his gratitude to the organizing committee for arranging this important conference. The Governor promised to ensure the safe conduction of Arbaeen pilgrimage by providing foolproof security and healthcare facilities to the pilgrims of Imam Hussain (AS). The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research emphasized the importance of full collaboration during this holy event. The Ministry of Health pledged to provide comprehensive healthcare facilities to the pilgrims. The President of Warith Al-Anbiyaa (PBUH) University assured provision of academic and clinical facilities for the pilgrims. WHO representative in Iraq also committed full cooperation? Other speakers in the session included Presidents of Iran University of Medical Sciences and Al-Sabtain University.

Scientific Sessions

There were three parallel sessions held at Warith Al-Anbiyaa (PBUH) University – University Presidency Building, where numerous guest speakers presented their research and practical experiences regarding mass gatherings. Various themes were covered in these parallel sessions, such as Mental Health Services, analytical and specialized statistics in designing health service strategies, emergency medicine in millionths-person visits, first aid programs, medical evacuation, medical and health support programs for the disabled and patients with chronic diseases, media and health education.

On the second day of the conference, a seminar was held to discuss the mechanisms for implementing the recommendations of the conference. The aim of these recommendations was to enhance the provision of medical services to the visitors of Imam Hussein (PBUH) during the Al-Arbaeen pilgrimage.
During the closing ceremony, Prof Ali Abid Saadoon, Prof Ahmad Sahib, Prof Dr Dhafir, and Prof Osama Kadum presented the recommendations of the conference. These recommendations were endorsed by Prof Pazouki (President IUMS), Prof Mulazim Hussain Bukhari (Principal AJKMC Muzaffarabad Pakistan), Prof Munaher (UK), Dr Arezoo Dehghani (SBMU), Dr Hesami Arani (Iran), and Dr Nael(Iraq), Dr Shahzad, Dr Hashir Iqbal Joya, Dr Syed Zafar Mehdi, (Pakistan), Dr Mujtaba Fattahi (Iran)

Recommendations
The conference recommendations decided to work in the following areas:
• Risk assessment and mitigation strategies for mass gatherings.
• Emerging trends and technologies in event management.
• Collaboration and coordination among stakeholders.
• Lessons learned from past events & their impact on future planning.
• Involving social media, electronic media, and journals to highlight the importance of mass gathering health, travel, and pilgrimage responsibilities.”
• The role of international collaborations in enhancing event safety and security.
• Attending this conference can provide valuable insights and networking opportunities for research, professionals in the field, helping to strengthen international collaborations and improve the overall safety and security of mass gatherings.
• Promoting healthy behaviors and lifestyles, improving access to healthcare services, and enhancing public awareness about the importance of health and wellness.
• Additionally, there is a need for further research on the impact of Arbaeen on cybercrime, role of artificial intelligence, mental health and the development of strategies to mitigate any negative effects.

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