Pakistan hit by deadly cholera outbreak as heatwave grips South Asia

Temperatures in parts of Pakistan and India have reached record levels in recent weeks, putting the lives of millions of people at risk as the effects of the climate crisis are felt across the subcontinent.

Cholera cases were first identified in Pir Koh, a remote mountain town in Balochistan province, on April 17. Since then, more than 2,000 people have been infected and six have died, according to Dr. Ahmed Baloch, of the Balochistan Health Department.

Residents of Pir Koh say they do not have access to clean drinking water. The lack of rain this year has dried up nearby ponds, with the only source of water being a pipeline that “had corroded and polluted the water supply,” said local resident Hassan Bugti.

“Residents are forced to drink dirty water,” he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered “emergency relief measures” to contain the cholera outbreak in Pir Koh. and the military has been called in to help provide mobile water tanks to ensure clean drinking water reaches the population and to set up medical camps to treat the sick.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease that kills thousands of people worldwide every year. It is easily transmitted by eating food or water contaminated with the fecal bacterium Vibrio cholerae. And scientists have warned of the dire impacts of climate change on human health, with rising temperatures encouraging the spread of dangerous pathogens like cholera.

The outbreak comes as Pakistan faces a severe water crisis and an early heat wave that has continued across the country since the beginning of the month, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

Jacobabad, one of the hottest cities in the world, in the central province of Sindh, reached 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday and 50 degrees Celsius the day before. Average high temperatures in the city this month have been around 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

It is unlikely that the heat will subside any time soon. While dust storms, wind gusts and scattered showers and thunderstorms have brought relief to parts of the country in recent days, temperatures are expected to rise again from Wednesday, the Pakistan Meteorological Department said.

Pakistani Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said on Monday that Pakistan is one of the countries with the most water problems in the world and one of the ten most vulnerable countries to climate stress.

The country’s major dams are currently at a “dead level and sources of water are scarce and in dispute,” Rehman told CNN, adding, “This is an all-encompassing existential crisis that needs to be taken seriously.”

In the summer of 2015, more than 1,000 people were killed in a heat wave in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.

India suffers from the heat

The heat wave has also been felt by neighboring India, where temperatures in the capital of Delhi exceeded 49 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

In recent months, India has experienced a severe heat wave, with average maximum temperatures in northwestern India in April and nationwide reaching the highest temperature in 122 years in March.

The scorching heat surpassed 49 degrees Celsius in Delhi for the first time this year, with temperatures reaching 49.2 degrees Celsius (120.5 degrees Fahrenheit) at the Mungeshpur weather station in Delhi on Sunday and 49.1 degrees Celsius (120.3). degrees Fahrenheit) in the Najafgarh weather station. according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). New Delhi has been above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for 14 days in May.

A girl selling water uses an umbrella to protect herself from the sun while waiting for customers in New Delhi, India, on April 27.

Gurgaon, southwest of New Delhi, recorded the highest temperature since May 10, 1966, at 48.1 degrees Celsius (118.5 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the IMD.

The IMD predicts some relief for Delhi, with cloudy and clear skies for the next few days. However, it predicts high temperatures will return in some parts of the region later in the week.

In some states, the heat has forced schools to close, damaged crops and strained energy supplies as officials warned residents to stay indoors and stay hydrated. On Saturday, India banned wheat exports – days after it said it was targeting record shipments this year – as the heat wave slackened production and domestic prices hit record highs.
There is a 50:50 chance that the planet will exceed the 1.5°C warming threshold in the next 5 years

India often experiences heatwaves during the summer months of May and June, but this year temperatures started to rise in March and April.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), India and Pakistan are among the countries expected to be hardest hit by the climate crisis. Experts say climate change is causing more frequent and longer heatwaves, affecting more than a billion people in the two countries.

dr. Chandni Singh, IPCC lead author and senior researcher at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, said this heat wave is “testing the limits of human survivability”.

“This heat wave is absolutely unprecedented,” Singh said earlier this month. “We’ve seen a change in intensity, arrival time and duration. This is what climate experts predicted and it will have a cascading impact on health.”

CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, journalist Asim Khan reported from Quetta, CNN’s Esha Mitra reported from New Delhi, and Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Rhea Mogul and Robert Shackelford contributed coverage.

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