Schools ordered to close over extreme heat wave

Kampala, (UG):- Effective Monday, March 18, 2024, schools in South Sudan have been told to close and send learners back home to save them from the high temperatures forecasted for this week.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry last week indicated that most parts of South Sudan are experiencing a heat wave which is expected to last for at least two weeks, with temperatures floating between 41°C – 45°C.

The country’s health ministry has now said that extreme weather conditions pose serious health hazards to children, particularly young learners and adults with underlying health conditions.

“It is therefore imperative that measures be taken to mitigate the impact of the severe weather on the health of learners. The government has decided to take the following measures: close down all schools with effect from Monday, March 18, 2024,” said Yolanda Awel Deng, the country’s Health Minister.

During the closure of the schools, parents are advised to stop their children from playing outside.

The government also advised parents to monitor their children, especially the young ones, for signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

“Any school that is found to have opened during this time will have its registration withdrawn.”

The state authorities have been directed to implement the measures.

Mrs Deng further stated that there are documented instances of fatalities due to extreme heat. He explained that the disease surveillance department has put a system in place to detect and respond to cases, as there are already “cases of death related to excessive heat being reported in South Sudan.”

“Awareness of the health risks posed by heatwaves and prolonged exposure to increased temperatures is necessary. Health professionals must adjust their planning and interventions to account for increasing temperatures and heatwaves. Practical, feasible, and often low-cost interventions at the individual, community, organizational, governmental, and societal levels can save lives,” the statement reads.

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The South Sudan government advised the public to keep homes cool and keep the body cool and hydrated.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), extended periods of high day and nighttime temperatures create cumulative physiological stress on the human body, which exacerbates the top causes of death globally, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, and renal disease.

Heatwaves can acutely impact large populations for short periods of time, often trigger public health emergencies, and result in excess mortality and cascading socioeconomic impacts (e.g., lost work capacity and labor productivity).

They can also cause a loss of health service delivery capacity when power shortages, which often accompany heatwaves, disrupt health facilities, transport, and water infrastructure.

WHO says that the scale and nature of the health impacts of heat depend on the timing, intensity, and duration of a temperature event, the level of acclimatization, and the adaptability of the local population, infrastructure, and institutions to the prevailing climate.

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The precise threshold at which temperature represents a hazardous condition varies by region, as do other factors such as humidity and wind, local levels of human acclimatization, and preparedness for heat conditions.

The negative health impacts of heat are predictable and largely preventable with specific public health actions.

Exposure to excessive heat has wide-ranging physiological impacts for all humans, often amplifying existing conditions and resulting in premature death and disability.

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