Surviving the heat

Policymakers must therefore get people in vulnerable areas to face up to deadly and stronger heat spells


Editorial May 02, 2018

It’s that time of year again when searing heat begins to take a toll on human health. Temperatures in two districts of Sindh--Benazirabad and Larkana—touched the mark of 50 degrees Celsius on April 30 and residents yelped in pain over the particularly brutal conditions. Dozens of people in the two districts suffered heatstroke symptoms and were hospitalised in Nawabshah and other adjoining areas.

There are home-grown solutions available such as lessening the effects of extreme heat by staying indoors in the middle of the day. For those compelled to go out, measures such as high intake of water and consumption of yoghurt-based food can help. However, those who earn their livelihoods through physical labour cannot exactly afford to stay indoors or buy sufficient yoghurt-based food for themselves or others. To reduce the threat of heatstroke, the authorities must find ways to provide them with shade and water. One workable heat action plan has been developed in the Indian state of Gujarat and has helped save dozens of lives there. It is implemented via phone lines and warns people about extreme heat every time the mercury rises above 40 degrees Celsius.

The implications are grave for both the people and the government. We have known for several years now that we just cannot afford to ignore climate change. Neither can we ignore the forms of pollution that threaten human lives across the world. It is not enough to clear up the skies and expect temperatures to become lower; in fact if anything this will make the heat more potent and longer lasting. Taking pollutants out of the equation can never eliminate the risks. Policymakers must therefore get people in vulnerable areas to face up to deadly and stronger heat spells with better protection and resilience. To be prepared is more than half the victory.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2018.

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