Ice cubes now costlier than bread, milk in Mali

Record-breaking heat has driven up the cost of ice cubes in parts of Mali, making them more expensive than basic staples like bread and milk. In the capital, Bamako, a 15-year-old girl named Fatouma Yattara explains that she buys ice cubes to keep food fresh and stay cool because her fridge doesn’t work due to frequent power cuts.

However, the high prices of ice cubes, which can cost between 100 and 500 CFA francs ($0.20-$1.00), make it a difficult expense to bear. In comparison, a standard baguette costs about 250 CFA francs.

The persistent power cuts in Mali are causing widespread problems. Nana Konaté Traoré, another resident, says she now has to cook daily because food spoils due to the lack of refrigeration. The state power company’s failure to meet growing electricity demands, compounded by debt, has led to prolonged outages, affecting many people who cannot afford backup generators.

The power shortages mean people must cope with extreme heat without cooling systems. Soumaïla Maïga, from the Yirimadio district in Bamako, describes how night temperatures can reach 46 degrees Celsius, forcing him to pour water over himself to cope with dizziness caused by the heat.

The extreme heatwave, with temperatures soaring above 48 degrees Celsius, has resulted in over 100 deaths in Mali, with the elderly and young children being the most vulnerable. Hospitalizations due to dehydration and respiratory distress have increased, leading some schools to close as a safety measure. Health experts like Prof Yacouba Toloba at Bamako’s university hospital say they saw around 15 hospitalizations a day due to heat-related illnesses, with symptoms including coughs, bronchial congestion, and respiratory distress.

The heatwave’s impact extends beyond Mali, affecting neighboring countries such as Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, and Chad. Scientists from World Weather Attribution (WWA) attribute this extreme heat to human-induced climate change. They estimate that without human-caused warming from burning fossil fuels, the observed 5-day heatwave in Mali and Burkina Faso would have been 1.5 to 1.4 degrees Celsius cooler.

To cope with the extreme heat, people in Bamako are adapting as best as they can. Ms. Konaté Traoré, like many others, takes mats outside to sleep in her yard at night, finding it too hot to stay indoors. She explains that the heat makes her sick, but there’s little choice but to endure it. As temperatures are expected to remain high for the coming weeks, the challenges of dealing with these extreme conditions are far from over.

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