Social Protection Resource Centre

Health Impact of Extreme Heat in Pakistan

Health Impact of Extreme Heat in Pakistan: Precautionary Measures

Author: Saad Khalil (Research Assistant)

Introduction
Pakistan, like many other regions across the globe, faces the wrath of scorching temperatures during the summer months. With climate change exacerbating weather patterns, extreme heat waves have become increasingly frequent and severe, posing significant health challenges to the population. Recently, a few portions of the Margalla Hills in Islamabad caught fire due to the extreme heat conditions, affecting nearby areas such as NUST. This is not happening for the first time; however, in the previous years, the Margalla Hills experienced severe fire ignites due to the extreme heat. This blog will delve into the health impact of extreme heat in Pakistan and recommend some preventive measures to mitigate its adverse effects.

Health Impacts of Extreme Heat
Heatwaves are triggering a multitude of health issues, ranging from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions. The vulnerable segments of society, including the elderly, children, pregnant women, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions, are particularly susceptible to heat-related illness. Over 50 degrees Celsius of temperature, eventually causing heatstroke, resulting in disabilities and many deaths in certain areas of Pakistan. In the Sindh province of Hyderabad and Jamshoro, four people have died due to extreme heat exposure. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures is leading to heat exhaustion, characterised by symptoms such as heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and headache. Furthermore, due to excessive sweating in hot weather, most of the population is experiencing dehydration, resulting in symptoms like dry mouth, thirst, fatigue, and light-headedness. Given the persistent heatwave challenges in Pakistan, certain precautionary measures are utterly needed to mitigate the effects.

Preventive measures
Following are a few preventive measures through which we can address this contemporary challenge:

  1. The first measure is to install shaded areas with filtered and continuously cooled water coolers at public places such as public transport stands, educational institution bus stops, and government offices where people may need to stand for a prolonged period. This will help individuals avoid extreme heats and stay hydrated. Local and national authorities must take this action to fulfil their responsibility.
  2. Installing sun block vending machines in schools, universities, parks, sports venues, and other public spaces can provide essential protection from skin cancer. Although it may sound elite, protecting oneself from harmful ultraviolent (UV) radiation is crucial for everyone. This concept was introduced by the Dutch Government to protect its public from the extreme heat and results show that people are less likely to die from melanoma skin cancer. Our government should also prioritise this issue in the budget.
  3. Public awareness campaigns are essential to educate the people about the severe impacts of heat waves, the importance of hydration, and the need to minimise outdoor activities during peak heat hours. For instance, it is recommended to go out before 9 am and after 4 pm to avoid the highest temperatures.
  4. Outdoor workers are highly susceptible to heatwaves. To mitigate this risk, they should wear sun caps and stay hydrated by drinking water regularly.
  5. Lastly, encouraging afforestation and building parks will undoubtedly help reduce local temperatures.

Conclusion
The government must implement a national health action plan through inter-provincial coordination to mitigate the severe health impacts of extreme heat. By adopting the above-mentioned measures, we can reduce the health impacts of climate change in the country. Additionally, it is crucial to raise public awareness about the risks associated with extreme heat and climate change, and to promote community-based initiatives that enhance local resilience and adaptative capacity.