Dermatologists urge caution as heat wave threatens skin health in Pakistan

A woman from a train window receives water on her head to cool off during a hot and humid day at the Hyderabad Railway Station in Hyderabad, Pakistan on May 22, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 29 May 2024

Dermatologists urge caution as heat wave threatens skin health in Pakistan

  • Arab News spoke to two dermatologists to understand how people can protect their skin in extreme heat conditions
  • Sunburn, hyper-pigmentation and flaring of existing skin conditions like acne, eczema or rosacea identified as primary risks

ISLAMABAD: Doctors this week warned of a significant threat to dermatological health in Pakistan as the South Asian nation on the searing edge of climate change faces an intense heat wave that is expected to continue well into June in some parts of the country.
This month and the next, temperatures could go as high as 55 C (131 F), weather forecasters have warned. The World Health Organization says the optimum air temperature for the body is between 18C and 24C. Any hotter and the risks rise.
Against this background, Arab News spoke to two dermatologists to understand how people can protect their skin in extreme heat conditions.
“Avoid going out in peak sun hours,” Dr. Kamran Qureshi, an expert in aesthetic medicine and anti–aging, told Arab News “Cleanse, tone and moisturize your skin. Wear a sunblock that suits you.”
Sunburn, hyper-pigmentation, and flaring of existing skin conditions like acne, eczema or rosacea are the primary risks, Dr. Qureshi added, advising drinking water, applying sunblock and wearing a hat and using an umbrella when going out.
Explaining best practices for hydrating the skin during extreme heat, the dermatologist said drinking fluids and consuming antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables could keep the skin healthy while applying aloe vera-based products could help soothe irritated skin.
Another Islamabad-based dermatologist, Dr. Mohsin Kaira, explained that excessive sunlight had different effects on varying skin types. The heat tended to make the skin produce more oil, leading to breakouts and shininess for people with oily skin and dehydration, flakiness and increased sensitivity for those with dry skin. 
Additionally, individuals with pre-existing skin conditions like eczema could face flare-ups during hot weather, Dr. Kaira said, advising them to keep their living spaces cool, wear loose clothes, use a humidifier, moisturize frequently, take cold showers and stay away from products containing alcohol, fragrances and chemicals.
“People with sensitive skin are prone to irritation, redness and sunburn,” Dr. Kaira, who works as a researcher at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and as a consultant aesthetics Dermatologist at a private clinic in Islamabad, told Arab News. “Heat accelerates aging, leading to wrinkles and loss of elasticity with people having mature skin.”
He warned that all skin types were susceptible to sunburn which caused peeling and long-term skin damage, while prolonged sun exposure also increased the risk of skin cancer.
When asked about recommended sunscreens, he advised a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 to be reapplied every two hours.
Dr. Kaira identified day timings of 10 am to 4 p.m. when direct sunlight needed to be avoided and recommended water-rich foods such as cucumbers, watermelons, strawberries, oranges and anti-oxidant heavy foods like berries, tomatoes, and carrots.
The dermatologist said certain types of fabrics and colors could also provide better protection against ultraviolet rays:
“Darker colors and bright shades like red, black, and navy absorb more UV radiation, preventing it from reaching the skin in comparison with light colors such as white or pastels that tend to be less protective.”

Pakistan Army rescues three foreign mountaineers stranded at K2 mountain 

Updated 6 sec ago

Pakistan Army rescues three foreign mountaineers stranded at K2 mountain 

  • Foreign climbers from Singapore, Netherlands and Ecuador rescued in Pakistan Army helicopter
  • Two mountaineers fell on glacier while the third suffered from flu and severe cough

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Wednesday rescued three foreign mountaineers after they encountered difficulties while attempting to summit the towering K2 mountain in the country’s northern region, the army’s media wing said. 

K2, the world’s second-highest peak which stands at 8,611 meters, lies in Pakistan’s Karakorum Range. It is nicknamed “the savage mountain” by high-altitude climbers who often encounter great difficulty in summiting it. 

The mountaineers, who hailed from Singapore, the Netherlands and Ecuador, were rescued by a Pakistan Army helicopter after they fell ill while climbing the mountain. 

“I’m Kim and I am from Holland. I had a big fall from a glacier and now the Pakistan Army is rescuing me from the glacier,” she said while sitting in the army’s helicopter. 

Another climber from Singapore, who did not mention her name, said she suffered from flu while attempting to summit the mountain. 

“I got really, really sick,” she said. “Thank you to the Pakistan Army for rescuing me.”

The third foreign climber from Ecuador had his arm in a sling, saying that he had fractured it while climbing the mountain. 

Home to some of the tallest peaks and stunning landscapes, Pakistan attracts foreign climbers and tourists from around the world in every mountaineering season, making it a premier destination for adventure enthusiasts.

According to official figures, over 8,900 foreigners visited the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region in 2023 where the summer climbing season runs from early June to late August.

Pakistan to complete road network to China, Central Asia to promote trade— minister

Updated 24 July 2024

Pakistan to complete road network to China, Central Asia to promote trade— minister

  • Pakistan recently offered Central Asian countries to become part of its $65 billion energy and infrastructure corridor with China 
  • Islamabad has increasingly sought to position itself as a trade and transit hub connecting landlocked Central Asian states with the world 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will complete a large road network connecting it to Central Asian countries and China with the object of promoting trade and investment, the country’s privatization minister said on Wednesday, as Islamabad eyes regional connectivity to ensure economic growth. 

Pakistan has increasingly sought cooperation in terms of trade and investment with regional allies and financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in recent months to recover from a macroeconomic crisis. 

Pakistan recently offered Central Asian states to become part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, under which Beijing has pledged around $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other projects in Pakistan. Islamabad believes the corridor presents a strategic opportunity for landlocked Central Asian states to transport their goods more easily to regional and global markets. 

Privatization Minister Abdul Aleem Khan met French Ambassador Nicolas Galle in Islamabad on Wednesday to discuss trade and bilateral ties between the two countries. 

“He [Khan] said the road network to China and Central Asian countries will be completed to promote trade in the region,” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported. 

Khan said Pakistan was privatizing its loss-making public entities to strengthen its economy, adding that these institutions have the potential to perform better and earn profit. 

“The French envoy expressed his country’s interest in investing and business activities across various sectors in Pakistan,” the state broadcaster said. 

“They also discussed various proposals for enhancing bilateral trade between the two countries.”

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has repeatedly said Pakistan aims to seek regional alliances and mutually rewarding financial partnerships with allies, rather than loans, to steer its economy toward recovery. 

The South Asian country narrowly avoided a sovereign default last year when it secured a last-gasp $3 billion financial assistance package from the IMF. Pakistan’s economic crisis has seen its inflation reach double digit figures, foreign exchange reserves plummet to historic lows and its currency weaken significantly against the US dollar over the past two years. 

Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to heat

Updated 24 July 2024

Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to heat

  • Pakistan is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change, including hotter heat waves
  • Pakistan’s southern Sindh province decides to close schools for additional two weeks to ensure children’s well-being

KARACHI: School summer holidays will be extended by two weeks in southern Pakistan because of high temperatures, affecting more than 100,000 schools, an education official said Tuesday.

Pakistan is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change, including heatwaves that are hotter and more frequent and monsoons that are heavier and longer.

“We decided to close schools for an additional 14 days for the children’s well-being,” Atif Vighio, a spokesperson at the education department in Sindh province, told AFP.

Planned power cuts, also known as load-shedding, happen frequently in Pakistan due to an ongoing power supply crisis.

The load-shedding varies from city to city, but in rural areas of Sindh they can last for more than 12 hours a day, leaving schools without fans.

“As a teacher, I am worried about how I will complete the curriculum, but as a mother, I am concerned about kids going to school in this heat,” a public school teacher told AFP, asking for her name not to be used.

“It is the load-shedding we are worried about, not just the heat.”

The government has said more than 26 million children are out of school due to poverty.

Pakistan struggled through a series of heatwaves in May and June, with temperatures peaking at more than 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of rural Sindh.

Authorities in Punjab province, the country’s most populous, started summer vacations in May one week early to protect children from the searing heat.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said more than three-quarters of children in South Asia — or 460 million — are exposed to temperatures above 35C (95F) for at least 83 days per year.

Despite contributing less than one percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan has experienced severe weather-related disasters in recent years due to changing weather patterns.

Punjab’s disaster management authority sets up relief camps in flood-prone areas

Updated 24 July 2024

Punjab’s disaster management authority sets up relief camps in flood-prone areas

  • Current spell of monsoon rains in Punjab expected to continue till July 25, says disaster management authority 
  • Pakistan’s disaster management authorities have warned monsoon rains could trigger “emergency” situation in Punjab

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) announced on Wednesday that it has set up relief camps in the province’s flood-prone areas, as monsoon rains continue to lash various cities in eastern Pakistan. 

The PDMA spokesperson said rainfall was recorded in Punjab’s Bahawalpur, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, Lahore, Joharabad, Attock, Chakwal, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Okara districts of during the last 24 hours.

“PDMA has established flood relief camps in the respective areas given possible flood risk,” Director General PDMA Irfan Ali Kathia said, adding that the current spell of monsoon rains in Punjab is expected to continue till July 25.

“Arrangements are complete because of flood risk in vulnerable districts.”

Heavy monsoon rains have lashed Punjab and Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces this week. At least 24 people were killed and 80 injured in Punjab this month as heavy rains lashed many parts of the province, according to official figures.

Highlighting that heavy rains could trigger flash floods that could pass through the Sulaiman Mountains in Pakistan, Kathia said the PDMA’s control room and district emergency operation centers were monitoring the situation 24/7.

He warned people against touching electric wires and poles and advised them against traveling unnecessarily in bad weather. He requested them to undertake preventive measures during the monsoon season.

Kathia said the water flow in all rivers and barrages of Punjab was at the normal level, highlighting that the level of water in Mangla Dam remains at 56 percent and Tarbela at 68 percent. The water levels in the Indian dams on rivers Sutlej and Ravi were up to 37 percent.

Pakistan is recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change effects. Unusually heavy rains in June 2022 triggered flash floods in many parts of the country, killing over 1,700 people, inflicting losses of around $30 billion, and affecting at least 30 million people.

Pakistan approves free visas for 126 countries to boost business, tourism

Updated 36 min 10 sec ago

Pakistan approves free visas for 126 countries to boost business, tourism

  • Shehbaz Sharif says the government has taken the number of countries exempt from visa fees to 126
  • He says the decision will make Pakistan an attractive destination, further boost its forex reserves

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Wednesday Pakistan had made positive changes to its visa policy to enhance ease of doing business as the country strives to strengthen its economy by attracting foreign investment and exploring more trade opportunities.
Pakistan has faced a prolonged economic crisis that led the country to seek financial assistance from friendly nations and global lenders like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Earlier this month, Pakistan secured a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a $7 billion bailout facility to strengthen macroeconomic gains made over the last year, during which the country bolstered its forex reserves and brought down inflation from 38 percent to a little over 12 percent.
However, the government has also actively pursued economic diplomacy in the region by seeking more investment and enhancing trade and regional connectivity.
Addressing the cabinet meeting, the prime minister mentioned consultations with his team about two weeks ago, during which the visa policy came up for discussion.
“We have brought a major change in the visa regime, taking the number of countries exempt from visa fees to 126,” he said. “Tourists, businessmen, and other travelers from these 126 countries will not be charged visa fees.”
He pointed out this would lead to a loss of few million dollars, but would be instrumental in promoting investment in the country.
“It was mutually agreed that we should take this quantum jump to ensure ease of doing business in Pakistan,” he added.
The prime minister expressed hope the new visa policy would make Pakistan an attractive destination for foreigners.
He announced that visas would be issued within 24 hours to visitors planning to come to Pakistan.
Sharif noted this step would lead to a significant increase in large-scale economic activities in the country and further boost Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves.
While acknowledging the security challenges faced by the country, he added the coalition government was making concerted efforts to address the situation.