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how workers survive the intense Gulf heat

#workers #survive #intense #Gulf #heat

Like millions of other migrant workers in the Gulf, one of the hottest and driest regions in the world, construction worker B. Sajay is looking forward to summer.

“We work in very high temperatures, it is in the nature of our work. And yes, we are suffering from intense heat,” the Indian told AFP in Muscat, the capital of Oman.

Although summer has only just begun, temperatures in parts of the desert region, which is badly affected by climate change, have already passed the 50-degree mark.

Summer means suffering for anyone who works outside, along with the risk of dehydration, heat stroke and heart failure, and the Gulf States have banned working outside during the hottest hours of the day.

“The only thing that relieves us is the rest time … in the middle of the day,” says Sajay, who has worked on construction sites for six years.

Last year, a World Health Organization report found that the risk of death doubles or triples on extremely hot days in Kuwait, with a disproportionate impact on non-Kuwaiti males, who make up the majority of outdoor workers.

Workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are ubiquitous in the oil-rich Gulf states, providing cheap labor and filling the jobs that citizens shun in favor of high-paying government jobs.

The imported workers typically work on construction sites or collect rubbish, sweep the streets or deliver groceries.

– Unbearable even in the shade –

Between June and August, the oil-producing Gulf countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — ban outdoor work for about four hours from midday.

The workers return to their dormitories or snuggle up in any shade they can find. But even in the shade it is becoming increasingly unbearable.

On the first day of summer on Tuesday, temperatures hit 50 degrees Celsius in many places, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which recorded 53.2 degrees Celsius (128.8 Fahrenheit) in May, the hottest global temperature of the month.

“The last 10 years have been the hottest in Kuwait,” said Kuwaiti meteorologist Issa Ramadan, adding, “Summer in Kuwait now extends into September and sometimes into October.”

In Muscat, workers paving a road with asphalt covered their heads with brightly colored scarves and hats, while others found shade under date palms in the middle of a one-way street. Passers-by held umbrellas to protect themselves from the scorching sun.

“To finish the eight-hour shift as early as possible, I sometimes start work from 6 a.m., stop during the rest period, and then do two more hours,” said Muhammad Mukarram, a construction worker from Bangladesh.

The region-wide problem has long been a cause for concern. Human rights groups have urged Qatar, the host of this year’s World Cup, to investigate workers’ deaths linked to “heat stress”.

There are no reliable figures on the deaths of migrant workers in the Gulf States, which do not publish statistics and regularly challenge the estimates published by NGOs and the media.

A recent study by the Vital Signs Partnership, a group of human rights organizations based primarily in Asian countries, says that “up to 10,000 migrant workers from South and Southeast Asia die in the Gulf each year.”

The March 2022 report said more than half of the cases were recorded as “natural causes” or “cardiac arrest.”

– Deadly Heat –

In 2020, a study published in the journal Science Advances found that the Gulf has the hottest, wettest weather on Earth.

Scientists have calculated that even with shade and unlimited drinking water, if “wet bulb” temperatures – which take into account factors such as humidity, wind speed and cloud cover – exceed 35 degrees Celsius for six hours, a healthy adult will die.

The study showed there were only 14 cases on land where the temperature exceeded 35C, all in the last two decades, eight of them in the Gulf.

Another study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that “Within this century, parts of the … Gulf region could be hit by unprecedented deadly heat events as a result of climate change.”

“Unless we change course, these temperatures will continue to rise over the years, reaching levels where outdoor human activities in the Gulf, such as the Hajj pilgrimage, would be nearly impossible in the summer,” says Julien Jreissati, program director at Greenpeace MENA, told AFP.

Saudi Arabia is preparing to welcome a million pilgrims next month to perform the annual Muslim rituals.

“The only solution is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which are the main cause of climate change, and gradually but quickly switch to renewable energy,” Jreissati said.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have pledged to achieve net-zero domestic carbon emissions over the coming decades while expanding oil production.

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