Mon, August 08, 2022

international

Jacobabad residents rendered helpless as heatwave scorches Pakistani city


The temperature in Jacobabad hit a record-breaking 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit) on May 14, making it the hottest city on Earth that day. Pakistan had jumped from winter to summer without experiencing a spring, according to the country's Climate Change Ministry.

In a residential area of the Pakistani city of Jacobabad, a donkey-drawn cart stacked with blue plastic jerrycans stops near an entrance leading to a cluster of houses.

Its driver runs back and forth through narrow lanes, delivering 20-litre (5.3-gallon) containers of water from one of a few dozen private pumps around the city.

It was one day after the temperature in Jacobabad hit a record-breaking 51 degrees Celsius

The inhabitants, like most residents of Jacobabad, rely on the ubiquitous blue bottles for water, but local NGO and health workers say the quality is poor and the cost puts immense stress on families, forcing them to carefully ration water even in some of the world's most extreme temperatures.

In one home, six-month-old Tamanna cries in the afternoon heat. Today her mother, Razia, has enough water to pour over the baby in a metal basin and soap her down. Tamanna is calmer, cooing and playing with her mother's scarf.

It also helps that their electric fan is still running.

In another home, homemaker Rubina's family of 14 sit around an unmoving electric fan amid yet another power cut during an unprecedented heatwave.

Electricity shortages are common in Pakistan, making it tricky to cool down in extreme heat, and the city's deputy commissioner said they were trying to work with other authorities to fix the problem.

"On hot days, we just sit down, (regardless of) fans running or not running, with or without electricity, and the only thing we do is pray to God," she told Reuters while frying okra in an outdoor kitchen with little shade, adding that she often feels dizzy when cooking.

With an economy reliant on agriculture on farmland surrounding the city, Jacobabad has high rates of poverty that leave its population of approximately 200,000 people vulnerable to scorching temperatures. Women like Razia and Rubina are especially at risk from the effects of the sweltering heat, a local NGO worker said.

"Whether that’s day, whether that’s night, whether that’s rainy season, whether that’s summer season, they just have to cook. And even in the villages, they just have to go to the fields and they have to work and there is no roof before (above) them," said 22-year-old Liza Khan at one of three heatstroke response centres she has helped set up.

In a local school, teachers say it is a constant battle for the 200 pupils in four small classrooms where the overhead fans stutter in and out due to power cuts.

"It is very hot. We feel this heat on the way to school and while at school too... but we don’t want to give up is our education, it is a necessity so we can give ourselves a future," said Hafsa, 18, sitting in an English class in a crowded classroom.

Published : June 14, 2022

By : Reuters