National, News

Schools close over heatwave

By Kidega Livingstone


High heatwave has compelled the government to declare closure of all learning centers in the country, after registering death cases.

“The Government has decided to take the following measure: close down all schools with effect from Monday 18th March 2024,” the Ministry of Education and Instruction directed, in a circular.

The decision to close schools followed a report from Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, on rising heatwave and the impacts on children.

“It is therefore imperative that measures are taken to mitigate the impact of the severe weather on the health of learners,” the circular stressed.

Government has advised parents to stop their children from playing outdoors during the closure of schools and also monitor them, especially the young ones, for signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

The state authorities are also directed to implement the measures taken to safeguard children against effects of the heatwave and penalize offenders.

“Any school that will be found opened during this time will have its registration withdrawn” the institutions are warned.

According to Ministry of Environment and Forestry advisory, most parts of South Sudan are experiencing a heat wave. It is forecasted that the heatwave will last at least two weeks. High temperatures of 41°C-45°C are expected this week.

This extreme weather condition poses serious health hazards to children, particularly young learners and adults with underlying health conditions.

The public is therefore advised to follow the guidance in the Ministry of Health advisory issued to the General Public on 15th March 2024.

“This includes keeping your home cool; keep the body cool and hydrated; helping others; advice related to existing health problems and if you or others feel unwell” the health ministry directed.

According to experts, extended periods of high day and night-time 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. For instance, lost work capacity and labour productivity.

It can also cause a loss of health service delivery capacity, where power shortages which often accompany heatwaves disrupt health facilities.

The Ministry of Health discloses that its disease surveillance department has put a system in place to detect and respond to cases, as there are already reports of death related to excessive heat being registered in the country.

Awareness of the health risks posed by heatwave and prolonged exposure to increased temperatures is necessary.

Health professionals are advised to adjust their planning and interventions to account for increasing temperatures and heatwave.

“Practical, feasible and often low-cost interventions at the individual, community, organizational, governmental and societal levels, can save lives” health experts advised.

Last week Friday, the Minister of Health, Yolanda Awel Deng reported at least 15 death cases related to heatwaves and also an increase in meningitis infections as a result of excessive heat.

Yolanda told the Council of Ministers that most of the deaths registered were among children.

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