Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan’s hottest city

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A woman uses a paper sheet to fan her child amid a power cut during a heatwave in Jacobabad, in the southern Sindh province. (AFP)
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People drink water being distributed by volunteers along a street during a heatwave in Jacobabad, in the southern Sindh province. (AFP)
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Updated 18 May 2022

Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan’s hottest city

  • Jacobabad in Pakistan’s arid Sindh province grips with temperatures peaking at 51 degrees Celsius
  • Experts say the searing weather is in line with projections for global warming

JACOBABAD, Pakistan: 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.
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 said 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.




A laborer drinks water from a hand pump at brick kiln in Jacobabad of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. (AFP)


“We don’t want them to grow up to be laborers,” Jamali said, 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.
Laborers 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.
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 liters.
“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.
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 diarrhea.
“It is a difficult choice but if the cattle die, how would the children eat?” he said.




A man cools off as water splashes from a broken water pipe during a hot summer day in Karachi. (AFP)


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 labor.
They usually relocate the camp in the hottest months, 300 kilometers 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.”
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.




A man uses a water pipe to cool off on a hot summer day in Karachi. (AFP)


“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 said they suffered from headaches and frequent diarrhea 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.”


Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants

Updated 8 sec ago

Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants

BERLIN: Tens of thousands of migrants, who have been living in Germany for years without long-lasting permission to remain in the country, will be eligible for permanent residency after the government approved a new migration bill Wednesday.
The new regulation, endorsed by the Cabinet, applies to about 136,000 people who have lived in Germany for at least five years by Jan. 1, 2022.
Those who qualify can first apply for a one-year residency status and subsequently apply for permanent residency in Germany.
They must earn enough money to make an independent living in the country, speak German and prove that they are “well integrated” into society.
Those under the age of 27 can already apply for a path to permanent residency in Germany after having lived in the country for three years.
“We want people who are well integrated to have good opportunities in our country," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told reporters. “In this way, we also put an end to bureaucracy and uncertainty for people who have already become part of our society.”
The new migration regulation will also make it easier for asylum-seekers to learn German — so far only those with a realistic chance of receiving asylum in the country were eligible for language classes — with all asylum applicants getting the chance to enroll in classes.
For skilled laborers, such as information technology specialists and others that hold professions that are desperately needed in Germany, the new regulation will allow that they can move to Germany together with their families right away, which wasn’t possible before. Family members don't need to have any language skills before moving to the country.
“We need to attract skilled workers more quickly. We urgently need them in many sectors,” Faeser said. “We want skilled workers to come to Germany very quickly and gain a foothold here.”
The bill will also make it easier to deport criminals, includes extending detention pending deportation for certain offenders from three months to a maximum of six months. The extension is intended to give authorities more time to prepare for deportation, such as clarifying identity, obtaining missing papers and organizing a seat on an airplane, German news agency dpa reported.
“In the future, it will be easier to revoke the right of residence of criminals,” Faeser said. "For offenders, we will make it easier to order detention pending deportation, thus preventing offenders who are obliged to leave the country from going into hiding before being deported.”

In Pyrenees, Spain police hunt French double murder suspect

Updated 47 min 55 sec ago

In Pyrenees, Spain police hunt French double murder suspect

  • The pair were shot dead on Monday afternoon in a village near the town of Tarbes
  • Since then police had been carrying out "a full search" of the area around Jaca

MADRID: Spanish police were hunting the central Pyrenees on Wednesday for a man suspected of killing two teachers in a French village across the border, a spokeswoman said.
The pair were shot dead on Monday afternoon in a village near the town of Tarbes, where they both worked, with the suspected gunman fleeing on a motorcycle, a source close to the French inquiry told AFP.
His motorcycle was found abandoned on the Spanish side of the border in the northeastern Aragon region, prompting Spanish police to pick up the search on Tuesday, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.
Since then police had been carrying out “a full search” of the area around Jaca, a town that lies about 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of Tarbes, a police spokeswoman told AFP.
The search continued through the night and “is ongoing,” she said, without giving further details.
Neither French nor Spanish police gave any details about the suspect’s identity.
The teachers were shot dead in Pouyastruc village on Monday, prosecutors said.
The first victim, a 32-year-old woman, was found lying in the street by neighbors, while other, a man of 55, was found dead in his home, just meters away, the prosecutor said.
The suspect, who is in his 30s, was the woman’s former partner, a source close to the inquiry said.
They had two children together and were in the process of separating, suggesting the murders may have been a crime of passion.
The woman, identified as Aurelie Pardon, taught French at the school in Tarbes while the man, Gabriel Fourmigue, was a sports teacher at the same establishment who was known for representing France in bobsleigh at international level in the early 1990s.


British PM Johnson: My job is to ‘keep going’

Johnson made the remarks in parliament in response to a question from a lawmaker in his own party. (AFP)
Updated 06 July 2022

British PM Johnson: My job is to ‘keep going’

  • Johnson made the remarks in parliament in response to a question from a lawmaker in his own party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defied growing calls for him to step down on Wednesday, telling lawmakers he would “keep going” following a wave of resignations from his government including those of two key ministers.
Johnson made the remarks in parliament in response to a question from a lawmaker in his own party who asked if the prime minister thought there were any circumstances in which he should resign.
“Clearly, if there were circumstances in which I felt it was impossible for the government to go on and discharge the mandate that we’ve been given, or if I felt, for instance, that we were being frustrated in our desire to support the Ukrainian people ... then I would,” Johnson told parliament.
“But frankly, the job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you’ve been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going,” Johnson said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”


Taliban leader: Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks

Updated 06 July 2022

Taliban leader: Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks

  • Since their takeover last year, they have repeatedly said Afghanistan would not be used as a launching pad for attacks against other countries

ISLAMABAD: Taliban supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said Wednesday that Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks against other countries, and he asked the international community to not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
The Taliban say they are adhering to an agreement they signed with the United States in 2020 — before retaking power — in which they promised to fight terrorists. Since their takeover last year, they have repeatedly said Afghanistan would not be used as a launching pad for attacks against other countries.
“We assure our neighbors, the region and the world that we will not allow anyone to use our territory to threaten the security of other countries. We also want other countries not to interfere in our internal affairs,” Akhundzada said in an address ahead of the Eid Al-Adha holiday.
The Taliban were ousted by a US-led coalition in 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. The religious group captured power again in mid-August, during the chaotic last weeks of the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The international community has been wary of any recognition or cooperation with the Taliban, especially after they restricted the rights of women and minorities — measures that harken back to their harsh rule when they were last in power in the late 1990s.
Akhundzada, the spiritual chief of the Taliban, has remained a reclusive figure. He rose to leader of the Islamist movement in a swift transition of power after a 2016 US drone strike killed his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour.
After taking over, Akhundzada secured the backing of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who showered the cleric with praise, calling him “the emir of the faithful.” The endorsement by bin Laden’s heir helped seal his jihadist credentials with the Taliban’s longtime allies.
However, in his Eid message Akhundzada said: “Within the framework of mutual interaction and commitment, we want good, diplomatic, economic and political relations with the world, including the United States, and we consider this in the interest of all sides.”
A three-day assembly of Islamic clerics and tribal elders in the Afghan capital that concluded Saturday included pledges of support for the Taliban and calls on the international community to recognize the country’s Taliban-led government.
In a surprise development, the reclusive Akhundzada came to Kabul from his base in southern Kandahar province and addressed the gathering Friday. It was believed to be his first visit to the Afghan capital since the Taliban seized power.
In an hour-long speech at the assembly carried by state radio, Akhundzada called the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan a “victory for the Muslim world.”
A powerful earthquake in June killed more than 1,000 people in eastern Afghanistan, igniting yet another crisis for the economically struggling country. Overstretched aid groups already keeping millions of Afghans alive rushed supplies to the quake victims, but most countries responded tepidly to Taliban calls for international help.
The international cut-off of Afghanistan’s financing has deepened the country’s economic collapse and fueled its humanitarian crises.


China foreign minister seeks ‘new golden era’ of ties with Philippines

Updated 06 July 2022

China foreign minister seeks ‘new golden era’ of ties with Philippines

  • Many analysts saw the election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr as more favorable to China than the US

MANILA: China’s foreign minister said on Wednesday Beijing was ready to work with new Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to help usher in what he called a “new golden era” in the countries’ relationship.
That relationship “turned a new page” with the election of Marcos, said Wang Yi, who is visiting Southeast Asia at a time when Philippines ally the United States is seeking to boost its influence in the region.
“We highly appreciate President Marcos’ recent commitment to pursuing friendly policy toward China and we speak highly of these recent statements that have sent out a very positive signal to the outside world,” Wang said in a meeting with his Philippines counterpart, Enrique Manalo. Many analysts saw the election of Marcos, the son of the late strongman ousted in a 1986 uprising, as more favorable to China than the United States, but the new president has been clear in public statements that close ties with Beijing will not be at the expense of sovereignty.
China’s assertiveness and conduct in waters off the Philippines has long been a source of diplomatic tension, but Marcos on Tuesday said he wanted their relationship to be about more than a maritime dispute.
Wang said China was one with Marcos in his desire to deepen and strengthen ties.
“We are ready to work toward that same direction with the Philippines and to plan for our cooperation going forward in all areas,” Wang said.
“I’m confident that with the two sides working together, we can surely open a new golden era for the bilateral relationship.”
Marcos has a tricky balancing act in boosting business ties with China while maintaining a close relationship with defense ally the United States, a former colonial power that still holds considerable sway among the military and the public.