Andrea T Edwards

We are baking in the Global South

Southeast Asia, the Indian sub-continent, and parts of Africa are all sitting in the eye of an extreme heatwave. I’m in Thailand and it’s intense, with forecasts for the next week brutal. We can only hope the electric grid holds, but many do not have air-conditioning, so for them – with or without electricity – there is no respite. 

I released this video in February, when the heat started, because I wanted to show those who don’t know this region how millions of people live in the Global South. It’s had 150+ views, and yet it’s only four minutes… Do we not want to face this truth?

Since then, the heat is even more extreme, and deaths from heat stroke are being reported across the region, but the numbers remain much lower than the reality. Parts of India are forecast to hit 60°C wet bulb temperatures – completely unliveable.

We will see even more deaths in the coming weeks – both people and animals. Can you imagine what it’s like for the elephants, water buffalo, the birds, insects, lizards, frogs, and all other life too?

Governments are advising people to stay indoors and drink water, but many can’t – they have to work, so they can provide for their families. Equally, once it hits deadly wet bulb temperatures, the only relief is an air-conditioned environment. If you don’t have that, it will be very challenging to survive.  

We knew this was coming and did not prepare. It is a disaster unfolding, and it’s not just heat impacting us, but agriculture too. Rice is a staple for 50% of the world’s population supplying 80% of nutrition. Rice crops start to fail from 35°C and we have been at or above that for months now.

Please, take care of yourselves. If you don’t need to be out in the heat, stay home and stay cool. If you can’t be cool at home, get to a shopping centre or any institution with air-conditioning, and if you or someone you love moves into heatstroke, get medical help immediately.

If you don’t know, symptoms of heat stroke include dizziness, headaches, nausea, rapid breathing, trembling, redness of the face, and decreased sweating. If you hit this stage, you must get medical help straight away. Shade is not enough. If you see someone else in trouble, help them. Your brain stops functioning properly too.

Most at risk are pregnant women, the elderly, the sick and children. Classrooms in this region are not air-conditioned, so the kids are really struggling, at school and at home. Schools need solar panels and air-conditioning, and then they can become cooling centres for the whole community. Let’s invest in that!

The people really struggling are those living in slums/tin sheds, as well as outdoor workers on farms, construction sites, tourism workers, delivery drivers, etc… and, of course, refugees.

We need to come together across this region and take care of those at highest risk. They contributed the least to climate change but are on the front-line suffering from it. Be safe.

Here’s everything I learned about getting ready for wet bulb temperatures. It’s in Malay, Thai and Hindi, so please share it with anyone you know who can benefit from this knowledge. 34 actions to prepare for a heat index that hits unliveable territory.



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