Since March, the Malian people have been facing a heat wave that is forcing them to adapt to a new way of life. The scorching heat has been the cause of various diseases, especially among children and the elderly and several deaths have already been recorded by the health services. From a social point of view, this radical change in temperature, which has serious implications for the human nervous system, has also become a factor in incessant disputes between people from the same neighbourhood.
Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa that is located entirely in the Torrid Zone and is therefore one of the hottest countries on the planet. Sometimes, in the month of April, the temperature rises to 50 degrees Celsius and it seems like the air has completely stopped moving, to a point which causes choking among asthmatic and hypertensive people. They make up a large share of those in attendance at health centres, along with other vulnerable people. The advice that is regularly given out by health professionals through local media channels has had a major influence on the clothing and food consumption of the population.
In Bamako, Mali’s capital city, despite the density of the population, the streets, which are generally less wooded, remain quiet in the afternoons because of the searing sun that everyone strives to avoid, each one wanting to stay at home or seek better shelter. Even mentally ill people and pets looking for food do not dare to venture out in the scorching sun. Sunglasses are used extensively by motorcyclists. As for women, they regularly use sunscreen to better protect their skin. People are sweating profusely from dawn to dusk, which makes all economic and social activities unbearable.
On the other hand, for others it is a moment of relaxation, a period that one should enjoy by taking a holiday to get more rest. This is an opportunity for both the young and the old to occupy the banks of Mali’s River Niger for moments of relaxation.
The Malian forecaster, Fily Sissoko, put the causes of this intense warming of air down to strong atmospheric disturbance and declared that will have a harmful impact on the local environment. "This heat wave is a very dangerous time for the environment. Its main environmental consequences are severe drought, degradation of organic soil , dust storms, air and water quality degradation, as well as increased risk of forest fire", she said, highlighting the implications for human survival.
In some Malian agricultural regions, especially in southern Sikasso, the heat wave has begun to destroy food crops, as was reported last week by the local farmers' association, causing fears of possible malnutrition for thousands of people.
One man’s misery is another man’s fortune
At this point in the heat wave, refrigeration and ventilation devices are selling like hot cakes despite their surge in price. The desire to breathe sufficiently or refresh oneself at any time has become irrepressible and this has significantly increased the turnover of the owners of electronics stores and local refreshment bars. "The year started very badly for me, owing to the fact that my business was moving very slowly. Even whole days passed without one of my products being sold. But in this scorching period, my shop is always full. Every week, I order all brands and all kinds of aeration devices and they are selling at an accelerated pace," said Marc Dembélé, a market trader in Bamako, visibly happy at the dazzling fruitfulness of his business.
The unbearable temperature has caused a decrease in energy supply resources, which is the origin of unwanted electrical load shedding and power cuts. Because of these power cuts, many Malians are forced to sleep outside in the open air, despite the risk of respiratory infections to which they may be exposed. Other people prefer to spend a lot of time in refreshment bars before going to bed and this allows the owners to make much more money than usual.
Doctor Mohamed Saydi El Ansari, laryngologist, explained the health dangers of the rise in temperature that is seriously worrying Malians. "Everyone can be affected by this heat wave but the most vulnerable are the elderly, pregnant women and children because their fragile bodies are less suited to the rigour of the climate", he said. He added, "These people must therefore look for wet places to protect themselves. The heat wave causes dehydration, including the deficit of aluminum, calcium, sodium and potassium. It causes heart, circulatory, respiratory and brain diseases." He advised people to drink enough water and avoid heavy clothing.
Usually, in Mali for traditional ceremonies, cultural decency requires wearing a tunic. But in this period of intense heat, no one has dared dress this way for a long time. Everyone prefers lightweight cotton clothes that naturally retain less heat, preventing the body from sweating profusely so as not to dehydrate. Even in workplaces, clothing habits have been turned upside down by this incredible rise in temperature.
Currently, just before the beginning of Ramadan, many Muslim believers, are worried about how they will overcome the exceptional heat wave during the month of fasting, when abstinence from food and liquid in the heat of the day may be an extremely sensitive issue in a country with a strong Muslim majority. "At this climatic rate, it is sure that we will be confronted with enormous problems of physical resistance during the month of Ramadan fast approaching. But however high the temperature may be we are forced to find ways to fulfil our spiritual obligations", said Zéinab Sanogo, a Muslim woman.