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Pakistan Faces Severe Heatwave, Health Crisis, and Record-High Temperatures

A severe heatwave is causing a health crisis across Pakistan, with temperatures soaring as high as 51 degrees Celsius in Jacobabad, Sindh, on Saturday.

According to reports, many cases of acute kidney injury (AKI), heatstroke, acute water diarrhea, and gastroenteritis have been reported from various parts of the country, especially Sindh and Punjab, as the extremely hot weather hits these areas hard.

Residents are facing prolonged drought and a lack of clean water, forcing them to drink contaminated water to stay cool. Unconfirmed reports suggest that at least three people died from acute water diarrhea in a remote area of Sindh, Kaccha, in Dadu, as temperatures rose to 49°Celsius.

Muhammad Akbar, 40, sells dried chickpeas from a wheelbarrow in Jacobabad, interviewed by The Guardian has suffered heatstroke three times in his life. He says the heat is getting worse. “In the past, there were many trees in the city, plenty of water, and other facilities to help us beat the heat. Now, there are no trees or water, making the heat unbearable. I’m scared that this heat will take our lives in the coming years.”

During a recent heatwave, Jacobabad, where Akbar lives, hit a record-breaking 51°C. Normally, the summer heat starts in late May, but this year, for the first time, it began in March and will continue until August.

Ecologist Nasir Ali Panhwar, who has written several books on the environment, says the city is badly affected by global warming. This is partly because the city’s location makes it more exposed to the sun. Additionally, most of the trees that used to provide shade have been cut down for firewood or sold.

Sardar Sarfaraz, a chief meteorologist with the Pakistan Meteorological Department, told the media that the temperature had already reached 49°C in April, a record high. He pointed out that Jacobabad “is one of the hottest places in the world” and warned that the early arrival of extreme heat is a serious concern.

The Director-General of Health, Sindh, Dr. Jumman Bahoto, confirmed reports of deaths and illnesses due to heatstroke and waterborne diseases in some cities and towns of the province. He directed all District Health Officers (DHOs) to collect data and establish heatstroke camps in their areas.

As temperatures also became unbearable in many cities of Punjab, health authorities reported cases of acute kidney injuries among traffic wardens and others due to dehydration.

The National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, warned of an increase in heatstroke and water-borne diseases due to extremely high temperatures across the country. They emphasized that heatstroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not managed properly.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) reported temperatures of 50°C or above in three cities of Sindh, including Jacobabad, Nawabshah (Shaheed Benazirabad), and Moenjo Daro.

The PMD issued an advisory stating that most parts of the country will experience heatwave-like conditions during the next week. However, slight relief is expected from May 14th to 17th, mainly due to dust storms, gusty winds, and scattered rain-thunderstorms. Day temperatures are expected to rise again from May 18th onwards.

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