Heat stress and adaptation strategies of outdoors workers in the city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Extreme temperatures due to global warming are impacting negatively on the general population in many regions of the world, yet heat-related illnesses remain largely overlooked. Heat-related morbidity and mortality is predicted to increase because of climate change. Environmental heat is emerging as a key public health issue, particularly amongst poor and vulnerable sectors of society in developing countries. This study assessed the exposure of outdoor street vendors in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to extreme heat whilst working between seven-and thirteen-hour shifts per day and mostly in direct sunlight during summer months. This group of workers is particularly vulnerable to heat-related and other health problems as they are deemed to be illegal traders and operate without the support of a legislative framework to monitor their health and wellbeing. With the current political upheaval in Zimbabwe there is an urgent need for government to develop heat prevention policies, heat prevention guidance measures and extensive programs for outdoor workers to increase their knowledge and awareness of the issue. It is also necessary to develop adaptation and coping mechanisms amongst this vulnerable sector of society, while also exploring other preventive measures that could reduce heat exposure more broadly.