As everyone continues with the bustles and hustles of life, has anyone noticed the heat? The weatherman has been at work since the first day of January. Only at the beginning of the month, he issued weather forecasts that suggested sunny and dry conditions for most parts of the country over the month of January. Shockingly, the mention of heat waves in the Northern parts of Kenya caught my attention. Heat wave! In Kenya? Probably that was everyone’s reaction. The weatherman has warned of an impending heat wave in some parts of Northern Kenya including Moyale, Marsabit, Wajir, Mandera, Garbatulla, Garissa Lodwar, Lokichoggio and Lokitaung with temperatures set to reach between 30-40 degrees Celsius.
Heat wave is a period of excessively high temperature accompanied by high humidity and has never been experienced in Kenya before. However, it’s not an uncommon phenomenon and has been experienced before in other parts of the world. During heat waves, the human body is overwhelmed by the sweltering temperatures leading to extreme dehydration, animal productivity reduce, tarmac roads may melt in extreme cases, forest fires among other. In 2003 for example, a heat wave (that reached over 40 degrees Celsius) nicknamed ‘The Lucifer’ hit Europe claiming over 15,000 lives. In 2010, heat wave in Russia burned down thousands of hectares of forests, killing 54 people and leaving thousands homeless. In May of 2015, India lost 2000 people to a heat wave that only lasted a few days and later in April 2017, another heat wave killed 800 more people. People working outdoors, older people, the sick and pregnant women are more at risk.
It’s advisable for people in the affected zones to stay indoors especially during afternoons. They could also drink more water and fluids, avoid long journeys, wear a cap and loose clothing. Government and other stakeholders should remain alert and monitor this situation. They should also offer the necessary help including health assistance, water, food in case the situation persists for people and animals. Outreach programmes should also be rolled out to ensure the public, especially people in the affected areas, is aware of this impending hazard and ways of mitigating its impacts.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reported July of 2017 as the second warmest ever recorded month in the last 137 years. As the years go by, the world continue to experience more intense and frequent impacts of climate change; Vector borne diseases are spreading into new territories, the intensity and frequency of droughts is increasing, rivers and lakes are drying, heat waves are increasing in frequency and intensity, corals are bleaching among others. Scientific models further show that these impacts will get worse in the coming years if no action is taken. As such, countries will start experiencing climatic hazard never experienced before as is the case of expected heat wave in Kenya. This should be a constant reminder to the world leaders to raise their ambitions in the fight against climate change. For those who are still in doubt or pulled out of climate change agreements, the window for taking action is soon closing.
Denis is a practicing Environmental Impact Assessment and Audit associate expert and currently pursuing his masters on climate change adaptation at Institute for climate change and adaptation (UoN). You can connect with him on Twitter @dskiplagat, FaceBook, and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org