Heatwave spells in May and June pose health risks, Experts warn

Staff Reporter 04:02 PM, 21 May, 2024
Heatwave spells in May and June pose health risks, Experts warn

ISLAMABAD: Experts have issued a warning about significant health risks and are advising the public to limit their exposure to harsh sunlight as Pakistan braces for some of the hottest weather conditions in the coming days.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued a heatwave alert for most parts of the country, especially the Punjab and Sindh provinces. The alert, announced on Thursday, forecasts heatwave conditions to develop from May 21 and intensify into severe heatwave conditions from May 23 to May 27.

The NDMA has outlined three separate heatwave spells. The initial spell is expected to last for two to three days, followed by a subsequent spell of four to five days towards the end of May. Temperatures are anticipated to rise further, reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius in June. The NDMA has also warned of a potential third heatwave spell in the first ten days of June, which could persist for three to five days.

The NDMA emphasizes the need for proactive measures to mitigate the impact of heatwaves on both human and animal populations. The second heatwave spell, anticipated to last four to five days, is expected to significantly affect the Tharparkar, Umerkot, Sanghar, Badin, and Khairpur districts of Sindh.

Reflecting on past experiences, the 2022 report by Amnesty International highlighted the lethal repercussions of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable communities such as children, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and those with chronic diseases. Heatwaves exacerbate health conditions, leading to heat strokes, cramps, and aggravating pre-existing health issues like diabetes, often resulting in fatalities or accelerated deterioration of health.

Provincial and district governments in Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have issued warnings of extreme weather in the coming days, advising people to take precautionary measures such as drinking plenty of water and avoiding direct sun exposure. The government is also seeking assistance from humanitarian organizations to establish heatwave camps where affected individuals can find shelter, cold water, and basic first-aid treatment.

Community World Service Asia’s Response

In response to the heatwave alert, Community World Service Asia (CWSA), in partnership with district authorities, plans to establish four heatwave centres in the Umerkot district. These centres include one central site in Umerkot city and three additional camps near health facilities already supported by CWSA projects: Government Dispensary Ramsar, Government Dispensary Jhamrari, and Government Dispensary Cheelband.

These camps aim to offer basic services such as first aid, shelter, seating, clean drinking water, and juices to vulnerable individuals in the area, including pedestrians exposed to the sun and at risk of dehydration. With the expected rise in heatwave occurrences, CWSA plans to expand its efforts to provide similar assistance and public awareness campaigns in other operational areas.