Mothers bear extreme heat and effects of climate change- see pics

Updated: Jun 14, 2022, 03:26 PM(IST)

South Asia has suffered unseasonably hot temperatures in recent months. An extreme heatwave that scorched Pakistan and India in April was 30 times more likely to happen due to climate change, according to scientists at World Weather Attribution, an international research collaboration. Global temperatures have risen by about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

As temperatures continue rising, extreme heatwaves are only expected to increase. (Text: Reuters)

Women vulnerable to rising temperatures

Women are especially vulnerable to rising temperatures in poor countries on the frontlines of climate change because many have little choice but to work through their pregnancies and soon after giving birth, according to interviews with more than a dozen female residents in the Jacobabad area as well as half a dozen development and human rights experts.

Further adding to the risks, women in socially conservative Pakistan - and many other places - typically cook the family meals over hot stoves or open fires, often in cramped rooms with no ventilation or cooling.

"When the heat is coming and we're pregnant, we feel stressed," said Sonari, who is in her mid-20s.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Pregnant women exposed to heat might have complications

Pregnant women exposed to heat for prolonged periods of time have a higher risk of suffering complications, an analysis of 70 studies conducted since the mid-1990s on the issue found.

For every 1 degree Celsius in temperature rise, the number of stillbirths and premature deliveries increases by about 5 per cent, according to the meta-analysis Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education at Columbia University, which was carried out by several research institutions globally and published in the British Medical Journal in September 2020.

Cecilia Sorensen, director of the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education at Columbia University, said the unfolding impact of global warming on the health of women was "highly underdocumented", partly because extreme heat tended to exacerbate other conditions.
 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Extreme humid heat events

Few places are more punishing. Last month, temperatures hit 51 Celsius (124 Fahrenheit) on May 14, which local meteorological officials was highly unusual for that time of year. Tropical rains can also conspire with warm winds from the Arabian Sea to drive up humidity later in the year.

The more humid it is, the harder it is for people to cool down via sweating. Such conditions are measured by "wet bulb temperatures," taken by a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth. Wet bulb temperatures of 35C or higher are considered the limit to human survival.

Jacobabad's roughly 200,000 residents are well aware of their reputation as one of the world's hottest cities.

"If we go to hell, we'll take a blanket," is a common joke told in the area.

(Photograph:Reuters)

The frontlines of suffering

The harsh conditions facing many women were brought into tragic focus on May 14, the day temperatures in Jacobabad hit 51 C, making it the world's hottest city at that time.

Widespread poverty and frequent power cuts mean many people can't afford or use air conditioning or at times even a fan to cool down.

Some in Jacobabad find it galling that Pakistan is responsible for just a fraction of the greenhouse gases released in the industrial era and now warming the atmosphere.
 

(Photograph:Reuters)

No water, no power, we pray to God

Most residents of Jacobabad rely on such water deliveries, which can cost between a fifth and an eighth of a household's meagre income. Still, it's often not enough, and some families are forced to ration.

"Most of the time, it ends before it's time to buy more and we must wait," Rubina said as she closely supervised her children and grandchildren sharing a cup of water. "On the hot days with no water, no electricity we wake up and the only thing we do is pray to God."
 

(Photograph:Reuters)

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