Nonprofit offers Indian women cash, insurance to deal with extreme heat

ANIL SHAKYA/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of low-income women in India are receiving assistance to deal with the economic and health effects of the deadly triple-digit temperatures gripping the country.

Climate Resilience for All, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting people from the impacts of extreme heat, announced on Wednesday that it will provide 50,000 women in India with a financial package "that combines insurance, cash for lost income and soon, an early warning system."

The group said that the triple-digit temperatures of recent weeks have already triggered some payments. Every single one of the 50,000 women received about $5 in cash assistance, or about 83.52 Indian rupees, as every district reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Women who are enrolled in the nonprofit's Women's Climate Shock Insurance and Livelihoods Initiative received additional help. That program is offered to those in the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) whose "outdoor work can lead to chronic rashes, dizziness, burns, infections, and miscarriage, as well as loss of crops or merchandise that results in economic disaster at a household level," the nonprofit said.

Arunaben Makwana, one of the women who received financial assistance from Climate Resilience for All, said in a released statement that "the money from the program has allowed me to pay for my medical expenses and to buy food for my family."

Kathy Baughman McLeod, CEO of the nonprofit, said the program was one of the first of its kind and that the need will only increase as global temperatures get worse and continue to have devastating impacts on people across the world.

"There is one thing pushing SEWA women further into poverty and that is climate change," she said. "This program offers choice and opportunity in spite of extreme heat."

Under their initiative, women across 22 districts in India received the additional financial assistance in the form of insurance payments. In all, 92% of the 50,000 recipients receive insurance assistance. The highest insurance payout was $19.80 (1,653.73 Indian rupees) per person in the country's Dungarpur district, with women in other districts receiving an average of $7.38, the nonprofit said.

Temperatures across Asia, especially in the Indian subcontinent, have been punishing this summer. In fact, the summer in much of Asia —including in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam— arrived in spring itself when temperatures set records in late April and early May, clocking above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat waves, which are a regular annual affair in the Asia Pacific region, were worsened by the El Niño weather phenomenon this year.

The heat in late May and June so far has been scorching India, where more than 100 people have died in the past month because of heat strokes and other heat-related causes. The temperatures in the Indian capital, New Delhi, and dozens of other cities crossed 122 degrees Fahrenheit at least twice this month, but have been above 113 Fahrenheit consistently for weeks. Scientists say besides the high day temperatures, the long duration of heat waves and higher night temperatures have worse effects on human bodies that don't get enough cooling time.

The Indian Meteorological Department this week confirmed that this has been the longest heat wave spell: 24 days in different parts of the country. The heat wave has also triggered a water crisis in many parts of India, including in New Delhi, where people are coping with the shortage with trucked-in supplies, which they often have to pay for.

Climate Resilience for All says its program is aiming to expand to more communities across India and Africa in the coming year.

"Every dollar invested in women's health yields three in economic activity," the nonprofit said.

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