Mali heatwave: Ice becomes a hot commodity as temperatures soar

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Scorching Temperatures Upend Life in Mali

In the sweltering capital of Bamako, Mali, the relentless heat has turned everyday necessities into luxuries. Fifteen-year-old Fatouma Yattara now finds herself paying exorbitant prices for a basic commodity – ice.

“I’ve come to buy ice because it’s very hot now,” Fatouma says as she visits her local vendor. With no working refrigerator due to frequent power outages, she relies on ice cubes to preserve food and find relief from the stifling temperatures, which have soared as high as 48°C (118°F).

But the price hikes have made ice a precious commodity. “In some places it’s 100 francs CFA ($0.20; £0. for a small bag,” Fatouma explains, “even 300, 500 – it’s too expensive.” This means ice now costs more than a standard baguette, which normally sells for around 250 CFA.

The struggle is even greater for Nana Konaté Traoré, who is forced to cook every day instead of a few times a week. “We often go a whole day without power,” she laments, “so, the food goes bad, and you have to throw it away.”

The power crisis began nearly a year ago, as Mali’s state-run utility company failed to keep up with growing demand, amassing hundreds of millions in debt. Many Malians cannot afford backup generators to weather the outages.

Without electricity, fans are a luxury, forcing people to sleep outside, where the heat is still unbearable. “At night it can reach 46°C (115°F) – it’s unbearable because I suffer from dizziness,” says Soumaïla Maïga, a young man from the Yirimadio district. “I have to pour water on myself to cope.”

Mali heatwave

Since March, temperatures have soared past 48°C in parts of Mali, claiming over 100 lives. The elderly and young are most vulnerable, with the university hospital in Bamako seeing around 15 heat-related hospitalizations per day. “Many patients are dehydrated – the main symptoms are coughs and bronchial congestion. Some also have respiratory distress,” says Professor Yacouba Toloba.

Schools in some areas have closed, and people were advised not to fast during the recent Ramadan period. “We need to plan more for these situations, which will perhaps come back. This time it took us by surprise,” Toloba adds.

The heatwave is also affecting neighboring countries, including Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, and Chad. According to scientists at the World Weather Attribution (WWA), human-induced climate change is the culprit behind these extreme temperatures.

“Extreme 5-day maximum heat as rare as the observed event over Mali/Burkina Faso would have been 1.5°C cooler and 1.4°C cooler over the larger Sahel region if humans warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels,” the WWA’s latest report states.

As the scorching heat persists in Bamako, people like Nana Konaté Traoré are adapting as best they can. “We have to be outside all the time because of the heat. When it’s hot I get sick,” she says. “It’s not easy at all.

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