With temperatures showing an unusual rise, a recent study attempted to identify sections of rural communities most vulnerable to heat stress, examine the factors that contribute towards their vulnerability, and understand the coping strategies they use.
The study was conducted in five villages in Jalna and Yavatmal covering a sample of 285 households and 1,549 individuals (in these households). In villages, men in the age group of 31- 59 years were found to be most affected by heat stress. “We looked at a range of heat-related symptoms that affect people and found that about 50% of the individuals reported suffering from at least one,” Dipak Zade, researcher with Pune based Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR), said.
As part of a large international collaboration on climate change ‘Adaptation at scale in semi-arid regions’, the study was led by Pune based Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) in collaboration with Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR), Netherlands, and Society for Community Health Awareness Research and Action (SOCHARA), an independent NGO based in Bengaluru.
Zade and Premsagar Tasgaonkar from WOTR and Dr. Adithya Pradyumna from SOCHARA were the researchers involved in the study. Zade told The Indian Express that researchers collected information on occurrence of heat related symptoms in the rural communities during the summer (April – May) of 2016. These heat stress symptoms included small blisters or pimples, dry mouth, fatigue, leg cramps, heavy sweating, intense thirst, rapid heartbeat, headache, leg swelling, paranoid feeling and swelling of face.
Zade said that data was collected from community members and local health care providers through interviews and group discussions and a sample household survey. In addition, indoor temperatures were measured using data loggers for different types of houses located in Yavatmal district. These data loggers measured indoor room temperatures and humidity. Automated Weather Stations (AWS) were also installed at the study sites to measure outdoor temperatures.
Exposure to heat in various circumstances, both outdoors and indoors were reported. Heat stress was found to range from discomfort to a heat-related illness. Socio-economic status, occupation, age, gender and housing structures were associated with occurrences of heat related stresses. Those engaged in wage labor, both farm and MGNREGA programmes, were found to be vulnerable. Staying indoors was found to be of no respite. Individuals living in tin roof houses were more prone to heat stress as tin heats up quickly.
2,524 treated for heat stroke
As many as 2,524 persons were treated for heat stroke symptoms in March and April across the state. There were 142 persons from Pune who dialled 108 for the state-run ambulance service, 105 from Nashik, 140 from Chandrapur, 130 from Yavatmal, 192 from Amravati, 121 from Aurangabad and 148 from Mumbai. According to the state health department, there have been 12 deaths due to heat stroke and 171 persons hospitalised over it.