Jacobabad has a reputation for being one of the hottest places in the world. The 200,000 inhabitants here have to deal with more and more heat waves, and a common joke among the population is “If we end up in hell, we will take a blanket with us”.
In April and May, both Pakistan and India were hit by a violent heat wave that killed hundreds of people, and crops were reduced by up to 35 percent in some regions.
In Jacobabad, the temperature rose to 51 degrees, reports Reuters.
Such heat waves particularly affect one group in particular. For every degree the temperature rises, the number of stillbirths and premature births goes up by five percent, according to research.
Pregnant Sonari is sitting in the sun on a field where she grows melons when Reuters meets her.
There is also 17 year old Waderi. She gave birth to a baby a few weeks ago. The newborn lies on a blanket in the shade so she can feed him when he cries.
– When there is a heat wave when we are pregnant, we get very stressed, says Sonari who is in his mid-20s.
Like many millions of women around the world, they are among those who first notice climate change on their bodies.
Pregnant women who experience high temperatures over time have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. It is established through 70 studies that have been completed over the last 20 years.
Cecilia Sorensen, who is department director and climate researcher at Columbia University, says the health burden on women is under-documented worldwide. Often because poor women do not seek medical help.
“Heat is a very harmful factor for pregnant women,” Sorensen told Reuters.
The women in these hot continents are often poor and have to work through pregnancy and right after giving birth. In addition, they are expected to cook over hot fires and stoves in traditional societies. There is also no air conditioning.
The researchers believe that heat waves in South Asia are 30 times more likely now than in pre-industrial times, and the development is going in the wrong direction.
That it is over 50 degrees in May is very unusual. Such temperatures can also increase the humidity in the air, making it more difficult to cool down through sweating.
In Jacobabad, women work in the fields from six in the morning. They take a break to get away from housework and cooking in the afternoon, before returning to the field and working until sunset. It is not uncommon for someone to faint.
“They feel that no one is watching over them,” aid worker Liza Kahn told Reuters.
Kahn (22) is an economist and has left a comfortable life in a larger and cooler Pakistani city to be a spokesman for the women in his hometown.
She tells of a young mother of five, Nazia, who collapsed while making lunch for the family. She was taken to hospital, but died of heatstroke before she arrived.
Experts advise residents to replace the roof with a material that reflects away sunlight, and get clean-burning stoves as a replacement for open fire, but it is a long way to go for many.