The Fort Worth Press - Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan's hottest city

AED 3.67304
AFN 71.770291
ALL 92.547357
AMD 387.332869
ANG 1.800986
AOA 848.358993
ARS 889.486641
AUD 1.507454
AWG 1.8025
AZN 1.700366
BAM 1.802763
BBD 2.017698
BDT 117.21004
BGN 1.802009
BHD 0.376642
BIF 2868.414988
BND 1.349311
BOB 6.904847
BRL 5.139119
BSD 0.999309
BTN 83.056998
BWP 13.576992
BYN 3.270314
BYR 19600
BZD 2.014288
CAD 1.366455
CDF 2810.000232
CHF 0.91416
CLF 0.032842
CLP 906.219967
CNY 7.241956
CNH 7.25744
COP 3864.74
CRC 512.328893
CUP 26.5
CVE 101.639374
CZK 22.7059
DJF 177.923215
DKK 6.875895
DOP 58.846845
DZD 134.445315
EGP 47.139658
ERN 15
ETB 57.41697
EUR 0.921702
FJD 2.26765
FKP 0.796099
GBP 0.78495
GEL 2.710235
GGP 0.796099
GHS 14.538868
GIP 0.796099
GMD 67.775041
GNF 8590.127667
GTQ 7.762328
GYD 209.063633
HKD 7.81165
HNL 24.694658
HRK 6.979956
HTG 132.857077
HUF 353.989785
IDR 16050.2
ILS 3.658575
IMP 0.796099
INR 83.08405
IQD 1308.980634
IRR 42074.999706
ISK 138.160418
JEP 0.796099
JMD 156.390284
JOD 0.708902
JPY 156.735503
KES 130.399323
KGS 87.9557
KHR 4076.139558
KMF 455.649984
KPW 899.999697
KRW 1365.73499
KWD 0.30701
KYD 0.832711
KZT 442.579432
LAK 21388.210352
LBP 89486.380606
LKR 299.350141
LRD 193.574965
LSL 18.480015
LTL 2.95274
LVL 0.60489
LYD 4.842144
MAD 9.96737
MDL 17.727796
MGA 4428.261972
MKD 56.798385
MMK 2098.538969
MNT 3449.999773
MOP 8.041331
MRU 39.739933
MUR 46.078404
MVR 15.459723
MWK 1732.589759
MXN 16.676304
MYR 4.704037
MZN 63.500382
NAD 18.47987
NGN 1468.46007
NIO 36.779278
NOK 10.580725
NPR 132.892105
NZD 1.631095
OMR 0.384846
PAB 0.999272
PEN 3.735678
PGK 3.883486
PHP 58.115497
PKR 277.991612
PLN 3.92037
PYG 7516.246486
QAR 3.641496
RON 4.586204
RSD 107.979943
RUB 91.624977
RWF 1314.098723
SAR 3.750601
SBD 8.475185
SCR 13.658977
SDG 601.000029
SEK 10.655135
SGD 1.34963
SHP 1.26345
SLE 22.847303
SLL 20969.50094
SOS 570.999837
SRD 32.274499
STD 20697.981008
SVC 8.743744
SYP 2512.529855
SZL 18.372125
THB 36.627968
TJS 10.771968
TMT 3.51
TND 3.11875
TOP 2.364796
TRY 32.224897
TTD 6.785941
TWD 32.171004
TZS 2596.949711
UAH 40.109693
UGX 3802.246321
UYU 38.456752
UZS 12703.533522
VEF 3622552.534434
VES 36.500745
VND 25468
VUV 118.72199
WST 2.803093
XAF 604.652256
XAG 0.03254
XAU 0.000427
XCD 2.70255
XDR 0.754851
XOF 604.652256
XPF 110.704929
YER 250.350074
ZAR 18.400975
ZMK 9001.175304
ZMW 26.670968
ZWL 321.999592
  • RELX




  • NGG




  • AZN




  • VOD




  • CMSC












  • GSK




  • BTI




  • SCS




  • RIO




  • BCC




  • BP




  • BCE




  • CMSD




  • JRI




Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan's hottest city
Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan's hottest city / Photo: © AFP

Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan's hottest city

By the time Pakistani schoolboy Saeed Ali arrived at hospital in one of the world's hottest cities, his body was shutting down from heatstroke.

Text size:

The 12-year-old collapsed after walking home from school under the burning sun, his day spent sweltering 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 his bedside.

Jacobabad in Pakistan's arid Sindh province is in the grip of the latest heatwave to hit South Asia -– peaking at 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit) at the weekend.

Canals in the city -- a vital source of irrigation for nearby farms -- have run dry, with a smattering of stagnant water barely visible around strewn rubbish.

Experts say the searing weather is in line with projections for global warming.

The city is on the "front line of climate change", said its deputy commissioner Abdul Hafeez Siyal. "The overall quality of life here is suffering."

Most of the one million people in Jacobabad and surrounding villages live in acute poverty, with water shortages and power cuts compromising 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 don't want them to grow up to be labourers," Jamali told AFP, her son listless and tearful at her side.

Heatstroke –- when the body becomes so overheated it can no longer cool itself –- can cause symptoms from lightheadedness and nausea to organ swelling, unconsciousness, and even death.

Nurse Bashir Ahmed, who treated Saeed at a new heatstroke clinic run by local NGO Community Development Foundation, said the number of patients arriving in a serious condition was rising.

"Previously, the heat would be at its peak in June and July, but now it's arriving in May," Ahmed said.

Labourers forced to toil in the sun are among the most vulnerable.

Brick kiln workers ply their trade alongside furnaces that can reach up to 1,000 degrees Celsius.

"The severe heat makes us feel like throwing up sometimes, but if I can't work, I can't earn," said Rasheed Rind, who started on the site as a child.

- 'Water mafias' -

Life in Jacobabad is dominated by attempts to cope with the heat.

"It's like fire burning all around. What we need the most is electricity and water," said blacksmith Shafi Mohammad.

Power shortages mean only six hours of electricity a day in rural areas and 12 in the city.

Access to drinking water is unreliable and unaffordable due to scarcity across Pakistan and major infrastructure problems.

Khairun Nissa gave birth during the heatwave, her last days of pregnancy spent wilting under a single ceiling fan shared between her family of 13.

Her two-day-old son now occupies her spot under its feeble breeze.

"Of course I'm worried about him in this heat, but I know God will provide for us," said Nissa.

Outside their three-room brick home, where the stench of rotting rubbish and stagnant water hangs in the air, a government-installed water tap runs dry.

But local "water mafias" are filling the supply gap.

They have tapped into government reserves to funnel water to their own distribution points where cans are filled and transported by donkey cart to be sold at 20 rupees (25 cents) per 20 litres.

"If our water plants weren't 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 all day from a well –- but it is never enough.

"We prefer our cattle to have clean drinking water first, because our livelihood depends on them," said Abdul Sattar, who raises buffaloes for milk and sale at market.

There is no compromise on this, even when children suffer skin conditions and diarrhoea.

"It is a difficult choice but if the cattle die, how would the children eat?" he said.

Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable country to extreme weather caused by climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index compiled by environmental NGO Germanwatch.

Floods, droughts and cyclones in recent years have killed and displaced thousands, destroyed livelihoods and damaged infrastructure.

Many people choose to leave Jacobabad in the hottest months, leaving some villages half empty.

Sharaf Khatoon shares a makeshift camp in the city with up to 100 people surviving on a few meagre rupees that male family members earn through menial labour.

They usually relocate the camp in the hottest months, 300 kilometres away to Quetta, where temperatures are up to 20 degrees Celsius cooler.

But this year they will leave late, struggling to save the money for the journey.

"We have headaches, unusual heartbeats, skin problems, but there is nothing we can do about it," said Khatoon.

Professor Nausheen H. Anwar, who studies urban planning in hot cities, said authorities need to look beyond emergency responses and think long term.

"Taking heatwaves seriously is important, but sustained chronic heat exposure is particularly critical," she said.

"It's exacerbated in places like Jacobabad by the degradation of infrastructure and access to water and electricity which compromises people's capacity to cope."

- 'Battlefield' -

Along a dried up canal filled with rubbish, hundreds of boys and a handful of girls in Jacobabad pour into a school for their end-of-year exams.

They gather around a hand pump to gulp down water, exhausted even before the day begins.

"The biggest issue we face is not having basic facilities -- that's why we experience more difficulties," said headteacher Rashid Ahmed Khalhoro.

"We try to keep the children's morale high but the heat impacts their mental and physical health."

With extreme temperatures arriving earlier in the year, he appealed to the government to bring forward summer vacations, which normally begin in June.

A few classrooms have fans, though most do not. When the electricity is cut just an hour into the school day, everyone swelters in semi-darkness.

Some rooms become so unbearable that children are moved into corridors, with youngsters frequently fainting.

"We suffocate in the heat. We sweat profusely and our clothes get drenched," said 15-year-old Ali Raza.

The boys told AFP they suffered from headaches and frequent diarrhoea but refused to skip lessons.

Khalhoro said his students are determined to break out of poverty and find jobs where they can escape the heat.

"They are prepared as though they are on a battlefield, with the motivation that they must achieve something."