By the time Pakistani schoolboy Saeed Ali had arrived at the hospital in one of the hottest in the world citieshis body was suffocating from a heat stroke.
The 12-year-old man collapsed after walking home from school under the setting sun, spent his day swellter in a classroom with no fans.
“A rickshaw driver had to carry my son here. He couldn’t even walk, “the boy’s mother Shaheela Jamali told AFP from her bed.
Jacobabad in Pakistan ‘s arid Sindh province is caught by the latest heat wave to reach South Asia – at a peak of 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit) at the weekend.
Canals in the city – a vital source of irrigation for nearby farms – have become dry, with stagnant water barely visible around scattered debris.
Experts in Pakistan say the searing weather is in line with projections for global warming.
The city is on the “front line of climate change”, said deputy commissioner Abdul Hafeez Siyal. “The overall quality of life is suffering here.”
Most of the millions of people in Jacobabad and the surrounding villages are living in extreme poverty, with water shortages and power cuts hampering their ability to beat the heat.
It leaves residents facing desperate dilemmas.
Doctors said Saeed was in a critical condition, but his mother – driven by a desire to escape poverty – said he would return to school next week.
“We do not want them to grow up to be workers,” Jamali told AFP, her relentless and positive son.
Heat stroke —- when the body becomes overheated so it can no longer cool itself – it can cause symptoms of mild headache and nausea and swelling of organs, unconsciousness, and even death.
Nurse Bashir Ahmed, who treated Saeed at a new heat peak clinic run by a local NGO Community Development Foundation, said the number of patients who developed a serious condition was rising.
“Previously, the heat was at its peak in June and July, but now it’s coming in May,” Ahmed said.
Workers who are forced to work in the sun are among the most vulnerable.
Brick kiln workers trade alongside furnaces that can reach up to 1,000 degrees Celsius.
“The extreme heat makes us feel like we are sometimes throwing up, but if I can’t work, I can’t earn money,” said Rasheed Rind, who started the site as a child.
– ‘Water Mafias’ –
Life in Jacobabad is dominated by efforts to deal with the heat.
“It simply came to our notice then. What we need most is electricity and water, ”said blacksmith Shafi Mohammad.
Lack of power means only six hours of electricity per day in rural areas and 12 in the city.
Access to unreliable and unaffordable drinking water is due to shortages across Pakistan and major infrastructure problems.
Khairun Nissa was born during the heat waves, the last days of her last pregnancy dripping under the fans of any ceiling shared between her family of 13.
Her two-day-old son is now present in his weak wind.
“Of course I worry about it in this heat, but I know God will provide for us,” Nissa said.
Outside their three-room brick house, where the stench of debris is decaying and stagnant water is hanging in the air, a water tap installed by the government runs dry.
But local “water mafias” are filling the supply gap.
They have used government reserves to funnel water to their own distribution points, where cans are filled and transported with donkey trolleys for sale at 20 rupees (25 cents) per 20 liters.
“Without our water plants here, there would be major difficulties for the people of Jacobabad,” said Zafar Ullah Lashari, who operates an unlicensed, unregulated water supply.
– ‘Nothing we can do’ –
In a farming village on the outskirts of the city, women wake up at 3am to pump drinking water from a well all day – but that’s never enough.
“We prefer our cattle to have clean drinking water first, as our livelihood depends on them,” said Abdul Sattar, who collects buffaloes for milk and for sale on the market.
There is no compromise on this, even when children are suffering from skin conditions and diarrhea.
“The choice is difficult but if the cattle die, how would the children eat?” he said.
Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable country to extreme weather conditions due to climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index compiled by the environmental NGO Germanwatch.
Thousands have been killed and displaced by floods, droughts and cyclones in recent years, destroying livelihoods and damaging infrastructure.
Many people choose to leave Jacobabad in the hottest months, leaving some villages half empty.
Sharaf Khatoon shares a transfer camp in the city where up to 100 people live on a few rare rupees that male family members earn through male labor.
They usually relocate the camp in the hottest months, 300 kilometers away to Quetta, where temperatures are up to 20 degrees Celsius colder.
But this year they will be leaving late, struggling to save the money for the trip.
“We have headaches, abnormal heartbeats, skin problems, but there is nothing we can do about it,” Khatoon said.
Professor Nausheen H. Anwar, who studies urban planning in hot cities, said authorities need to look beyond emergency responses and think long – term.
“It’s really important to really build heat waves, but it’s vital to have chronic heat exposure on an ongoing basis,” she said.
“It’s worse in places like Jacobabad with the degradation of infrastructure and access to water and electricity that interferes with people’s ability to cope.”
– ‘Battle’ –
On the dried canal full of rubbish, hundreds of boys and a handful of girls in Jacobabad pour into school for their end – of – year exams.
They gather around a hand pump to reduce water, exhausted even before the day begins.
“The biggest issue for us is the lack of basic facilities – which is why we have more difficulties,” said Rashid principal Ahmed Khalhoro.
“We try to keep the children’s morale high but the heat affects their mental and physical health.”
With extreme temperatures coming earlier in the year, he appealed to the government to bring forward the summer holidays, which usually begin in June.
Some classrooms have fans, though most do not. When the electricity is charged one hour into the school day, everyone swellters in semi-darkness.
Some rooms become so intolerable that children are moved into the corridors, and young people are often weakened.
“It simply came to our notice then. We sweat a lot and our clothes become drenched, ”said 15-year-old Ali Raza.
The boys told AFP they had frequent headaches and diarrhea but refused to leave lessons.
Khalhoro said his students are determined to break out of poverty and find jobs where they can escape the heat.
“They are prepared because they are on the battlefield, with the motivation that they need to achieve something.”
Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan’s Jacobabad Source link Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan’s Jacobabad