Peshawar: The video says these graves are for the living, for people who haven’t died yet. As men dug long trenches in a graveyard under a blazing sun, the Al Jazeera video said Pakistan was digging graves in anticipation of deaths from the looming heatwave, given that meteorologists have predicted that 2016 is set to be the hottest year ever recorded globally. Last year, more than 1300 people died of intense heat, with mortuaries running out of space and bodies decaying for want of graves.

In view of anticipated heatwave, the provinces are bracing themselves for a repeat of a situation that caught them unawares last year. As elsewhere in the country, emergency response services have been mobilized in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to keep casualties from heatwave at minimum.

 “We have issued essential supplies and emergency kits to our centres in Peshawar and Mardan to stay prepared for the hot weather ahead,” said spokesperson for Emergency Rescue Service  1122,  Bilal Faizi, at the ERS Peshawar Headquarters.

According to Director General ERS 1122, Asad Ali Khan, with Ramzan (the Muslim month of  fasting) approaching and Pakistan Metrological department (PMD) forecasting hot and humid weather in coming weeks, ERS had established special units to facilitate public with cases of heatstroke.

The US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that observes weather patterns has said that April was warmest month ever on record, making 2016 to be the hottest year yet and by a biggest margin ever.  April’s land and sea temperatures at 1.11 degrees Celsius is warmer than average April temperatures between 1951 to 1980, which NASA uses as a standard reference point to study recent climate change.

In Pakistan, the heatwave experienced this year has surpassed the country’s own record of high temperature. In 2010, Pakistan had its hottest temperature in history on May 26, when the mercury hit an astonishing 53.5°C (128.3°F) at the town of Mohenjudaro in the southern Sindh province.  According to Weather Underground, the 128.3°F reading was the hottest temperature ever recorded in Pakistan and the hottest reliably measured temperature ever recorded on the continent of Asia. And if temperature readings are anything to go by, the prognosis for 2016 borders on the alarming. On May 1, 2016, temperature recorded in Larkana in Sindh was 54 °C (129 °F), Indicating a new record.

Although there is no reliable data available, media reports have consistently reported deaths every year in Pakistan due to heatstroke.

“Heatstroke is a condition caused by body overheating, mostly due to prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures,” Dr. Tahira Mufti who runs her private clinic in Peshawar told News Lens Pakistan.

She said heatstroke could occur if body temperature rose to 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke could quickly damage brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsened, she said, if treatment was delayed, increasing risk of serious complications or even death.

Dr. Mufti said that there was lack of awareness among public regarding how to provide first aid to heatstroke patients. Due to this, every year many people who could easily be saved through first aid die on the way to hospital.

”Symptoms of heatstroke include rapid breathing, nausea and vomiting, an absence of perspiration despite the heat, a racing heart rate, headache, dizziness and flushed skin,” said Dr. Mufti.

Causes of heatstroke, she said, were exposure to hot and humid weather or environment, strenuous activity, wearing excess clothing, dehydration and drinking alcohol that could affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

Doctors recommend that in case of heatstroke, patients should be immediately removed to a cool shady place, cooled off with damp sheets, given a cool shower and rehydrated.

“Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment,” said Dr. Mufti. “But prevention is better than cure. Heatstroke could  be avoided with a care.

As for the hot month of Ramzan ahead, Dr. Mufti suggests that people should avoid eating greasy food at sehar and iftar, hydrate well at Sehr, Iftar and post-Iftar, wear light clothes and keep their heads covered outdoors. Tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks should be avoided as these are diuretics that dehydrate the body.

Other than care, she said, there is need for awareness among public at the community level and providing hospitals relevant facilities to minimize loss to human lives.


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