“Unliveable for humans”

A visual documentation of Jacobabad, one of the world’s hottest cities

In August 2021, Amnesty International travelled to Jacobabad to document the impact of the climate crisis on its inhabitants. It’s one of only two cities on earth to have reached levels of heat and humidity that the human body cannot withstand
Shakil Adil

“Deforestation and industrial emissions have changed the climate of the region around Jacobabad to a large extent over the last three decades” Dr Ghulam Rasul, former Chief Meteorologist, Pakistan Meteorology Department

A man seeks shade under a makeshift shelter made from a discarded trampoline. Shade has become increasingly difficult to find with unchecked deforestation and residents make do with whatever they can find
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“How can a poor person save themselves from this scorching heat?” ­Shahnawaz Rind, factory owner

A man passes out from heatstroke in the middle of the road, a commonplace occurrence in the hottest months where temperatures have exceeded 50 degrees Celsius since 2017
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“Children go to bed in wet clothes. It’s the only way they can sleep” Jacobabad resident, Shah Bux

A child cools off with a hand-operated pump, his only respite in searing temperatures
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“Climate change will exacerbate existing poverty and inequality. It will have the most severe impact in poor countries and regions, and the places where poor people live and work. Developing countries will bear an estimated 75-80% of the cost of climate change” UN OHCHR, Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty, June 2019

An emaciated child seeks relief under a solar-powered fan, charged by a small battery in his home, which is only functional during the daytime
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“If we compare the temperature and number of heat stroke patients in Jacobabad to the last decade, the number has without doubt, risen for both.” Dr Asmat Ali, Jacobabad Institute of Medical Services

A truck driver takes a nap under stacked tables in the blazing heat. Most labourers take a break during the afternoon, when the sun is at its hottest, but this can lead to reduced wages
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“As temperatures rise, our tasks also increase, because more and more people start getting sicker” Lal Jan Birhoi, community health worker

Community health workers making their rounds that they must complete by 4:00 pm to submit their daily progress reports on time at their offices
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“In my childhood, I sat under the trees I sell for firewood now” Niaz Mohammad, shopkeeper

Firewood remains the primary energy source for many, significantly reducing the city’s tree cover
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“If as many people who needed solar panels were able to buy them, there would be 100 shops selling them – but people are just too poor here” Farmanullah, solar panel shopkeeper

Despite an abundance of sunlight, solar power is still prohibitively expensive for the majority of Jacobabad’s residents
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“We sell at least 4500 blocks of ice every day, but we still can’t meet the demand” Ghulam Yasin, an ice factory manager

Refrigerators are an inaccessible commodity for most, and for those that do have them, the unreliable supply of electricity remains an issue. As a result, buying ice is a necessary expense for many in Jacobabad
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Some families have created “donkey-powered fans” where a donkey is blindfolded and tied to a pole and made to move in circles, rotating an axel with two light blankets on them
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The most indigent often resort to the footpath to sleep. Many labourers and families place their charpoys on the divider on two-way roads so that gusts of wind from passing vehicles offer them some respite, even as they are forced to breathe toxic fumes from car emissions
Shakil Adil
Agricultural wastewater gathers in low-lying fields, which are used as pools to cool cattle off. Children who assist as farmhands often jump into the same water, leaving them susceptible to waterborne diseases
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A toddler receives treatment at a clinic for a skin condition caused by exposure to the sun. Extreme heat, dirty water and poor hygiene practices have led to many residents of the city developing skin issues
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“It’s hard to breathe when it is that hot, but if I rest, my family and I will go hungry. So how can I take a break?” Gulab Birohi, 70-year-old brick kiln worker

Some of the city’s most at-risk people are its 5,000 brick kiln workers, who produce a daily quota of 1000 bricks for less than 5 USD per day while working next to boiling ovens in the open air
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“These images and testimonies should serve as a chastening reminder to COP26 participants that the wealth of industrialized countries, built on fossil fuels and unsustainable practices, has endangered the survival of millions around the world, particularly in developing countries” Rimmel Mohydin, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner

To find out more and to see Amnesty International’s full list of calls on COP26 participants, see the full photo essay below
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