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Photo Source: mnesty International

Pakistan Reader# 609, 7 June 2023

Takeaways: A Burning Emergency: Extreme Heat and the Right to Health in Pakistan



The urgency of the situation demands strict measures by the government and the negligence can lead to major catastrophe

Varsha K

On 5 June 2023, Amnesty International published a report titled “A Burning Emergency: Extreme Heat and the Right to Health in Pakistan.” The report examines the extreme heat and heat waves in Pakistan and their impact on people’s lives, right to health and livelihoods. Further, the report calls for immediate action both from the government and from the International community. The report is compiled by surveying marginalised people and workers of the informal sectors. Jacobabad and Lahore regions, are the ones who have been affected the most  based on secondary literature data retrieved from ILO, WHO and other international organisations. Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director in South Asia, said: “Pakistan is on the frontline of the climate crisis. Climate injustice is starkly visible, with its people facing disproportionately severe consequences, often life threatening, despite their small contribution to climate change. Tackling a climate crisis of this scale requires global attention and action. Wealthier countries must make no mistake about the important role they play.” 
                                                                                    
Takeaways
First, extreme heat waves impact on human health. The changing climate patterns and shifting El-Niño patterns cause intense heat waves in the country. Therefore, direct exposure to heat has a great impact on human health. This leads to a lot of heat-related illnesses such as heat strokes and heat exhaustion and worsens chronic and diabetes-related conditions. Previously, 65 deaths have been reported because of heat waves related demise in 2022 but the real numbers are yet to be estimated.
 
Second, vulnerable sections of society have less or to no access to electricity as they face the brunt of it. According to the report, around 40 million people, who mostly work in informal sectors with lower paying jobs, do not have access to electricity. Poverty plays a crucial role in impacting people’s lives. This situation prevents them from accessing renewable sources and other cooling mechanisms, which are even costlier and unaffordable. Further, women and children are subjected to a higher degree of impact wherein affected by skin diseases, malnutrition and food insecurities resulting because of the impact of climate change on agriculture practices.    
 
Third, unresponsive state and confined international action. In Pakitsan, Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have implemented a heat wave action plan, while other provinces are still on the process of developing an action plan. This was reflected when Pakistan was unable to meet the climate-induced loss and damage, especially during floods. Furthermore, the ineffectiveness of existing plans and strategies and the lack of climate-responsive social protection endure a larger burden on the people and livelihoods. The government is unable to integrate the social protection system and climate change, due to a lack of resources and efficiency. Additionally, ILO and WHO are taking immense efforts to create an action plan for Pakistan, which includes suggesting eight core elements for an effective heat wave action plan, and providing regulations for employment and labour in the workplace but the effectiveness is questionable. The decline in climate finance provided by the international community is hindering the recovery process from the disasters. 
 
Fourth, call for aid from the international community. The report advised Pakistan Government to conduct a ‘needs assessment’ for the vulnerable sections of society and implement measures accordingly. Updating existing social protection strategies and implementing comprehensive heat action plans with the help of ILO and WHO to improve the condition and build a resilient future for Pakistan. Further, the organisation called for financial aid from developed countries in combating climate change effects. 

The effects of extreme heat waves on the region are life- threating as the death rate is likely to increase in upcoming months due to the extremity. The drifting climate patterns have serious impacts on agriculture, livestock and small-scale industries which further affect the economy of the country. The decline in the economy influences the people’s livelihoods which imply that the impact is cyclical. If the State remains unresponsive to the situation, the condition is likely to exacerbate causing massive loss and damage to people’s lives and livelihoods. The urgency of the situation demands strict measures by the government and the negligence can lead to major catastrophe. Therefore, the state and the international community should consider the seriousness of the situation and react immediately as there is no ample time to think about it.  

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