Heat_Wave in_Karachi
On June 20, 2015, a heatwave struck the city of Karachi. Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan and is home to about 20 million residents. The heatwave that struck had disastrous consequences for many of the residents of the city, killing about 1,300 people and sending scores to hospitals.

Daytime temperatures in Karachi climbed to about 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit), the hottest that it has been in Pakistan since 2000. The effects of the heatwave were also compounded by the fact that it occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when people fast until sunset and when eating and drinking during daylight is forbidden by Pakistani law.

What’s more, many residents of Karachi did not have power or access to water during the week of extremely high temperatures. Power cuts in Pakistan are common, but the federal government and the main private power company for Karachi, K-Electric, assured the citizens of Karachi that they would make sure that there was power during the heatwave for when Pakistanis broke their fast at sunset. However, they failed to deliver on their promises, and many died due to the lack of air conditioning, water and fans.

Hospitals filled up quickly, with over 65,000 people visiting them for help and to seek shelter. The hospitals had to rely on donations and volunteers for many of their supplies. Some patients were not able to be treated by doctors, and their families were forced to attempt to take care of them while waiting for assistance.

A human body’s normal core temperature is around 38 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit). When our body temperatures rise to 39-40 degrees Celsius, fatigue begins to impact the body and the brain starts to slow the muscles down in order to cool the body. Above 41 degrees Celsius, our body cells deteriorate, chemical processes are affected and the body’s organs start to fail. This heatwave in Karachi affected the homeless the most, and also had a larger impact on poor families, many of whom did not have access to the air conditioning they desperately needed. Older people also suffered disproportionately.

The largest morgue in Karachi, the Edhi Morgue, normally has the capacity to hold about 200 people. It was soon overflowing due to the number of people killed by the heat and received over 900 bodies in the eight days of the heatwave. Many families who visited hoping that the morgue would help them to bury their dead had to be turned away, and cemeteries in Karachi ran out of room in which to bury the dead, leading to mass graves and burials.

Pakistan has suffered from heatwaves before, but this heatwave has led to an abnormally large number of casualties. Some attribute that to the fact that the heatwave occurred during Ramadan, while others blame pollution and climate change for extreme temperatures. These, combined with power outages and water shortages, most likely led to the massive casualties that occurred during the heatwave.

Temperatures have begun to normalize once again, but the residents of Karachi are still suffering from the consequences of the heatwave. In order to help those in Karachi, people have been donating to the Edhi Foundation (, which runs an ambulance service and the Edhi Morgue and is working to ensure that those who have died due to the heatwave receive a proper burial.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: BBC, New York Times, CNN, International Business Times, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Edhi Foundation
Photo: Today Online

Most Muslims who fast during the month-long Islamic festival of Ramadan do so under direction from the Quran, but those who abstain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours may also experience health benefits as a result.

If done right, those who participate in fasting during Ramadan can not only see a rise in spirituality and giving, but also health benefits such as weight loss and overcoming addictions.

It’s possible to see benefits from fasting during Ramadan because food consumption is often different from usual diets, as malnutrition and insufficient calorie intake are avoided during the religious holiday.

Fasting during Ramadan can help lead to weight loss because the body’s energy is replaced during the eating periods. Instead of using glucose as the principal source of energy, the body instead turns to fat, which prevents muscle from breaking down for protein.

Using fat as energy instead of glucose preserves the muscles, in turn reducing cholesterol levels, helping with weight loss. In doing so, blood pressure can improve and be controlled better.

A study by the Annals of Nutrition Metabolism in 1997 showed just this. Results of the study revealed that, by fasting, LDL cholesterol levels, the bad lipoproteins, dropped by 8%, whereas HDL cholesterol levels, the good lipoproteins, rose by 14.3%.

Such a phenomenon can be explained by the eating and exercise behaviors of those who fast during Ramadan. Studies have shown that people often turn to healthier options during the holiday, which reduces saturated fat consumption.

Such studies have also seen an increase in physical activity during Ramadan, as exercise from the night prayers, known as “tawarih,” may be equivalent to moderate physical activity for some.

Fasting can also help those with addictions. Though self-restraint, another teaching of Ramadan, the body goes through a detoxification process, which in turn can help those who fast overcome additions such as smoking.

By understanding the teachings of self-restraint and learning from them, those who fast may find it easier to forget addictions during the day when fasting occurs.

Matt Wotus

Sources: Al Arabiya News, Mosque of Tucson, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, National Health Service of England
Photo: Flickr

islamic relief
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the globe are fasting from dawn until dusk. Those fasting are reminded of the suffering of those less fortunate. Last Ramadan, 650,000 people in 25 different countries received food thanks to the efforts of Islamic Relief. This year the organization has set out again to help those in need worldwide.

In Saint Denis in Paris, the program “Tables du Ramadan” offers between 900 and 1,000 meals per night with the help of 60 volunteers. Solidarity is an important part of Ramadan for many, so the program works to bring people together and provide a space to share the meal together. Whether someone is fasting or not, and whether they are Muslim or not, everyone is welcome to come and enjoy delicious food.

Also in the spirit of Ramadan, which is about sharing without limits, 5,500 packages were sent to remand centers in France so that they know they were not forgotten in the holy month of Ramadan.

In Gaza, despite the dangerous environment, Islamic Relief is doing everything they can to help citizens. The representative of Islamic Relief France in Gaza reported the difficult situation. Electricity is only available eight hours per day, all points of entry are blocked and basic necessities are becoming more and more expensive.

Only four out of 10 citizens have access to daily food. There are emergency kits as well as food kits, which include rice, sugar, oil and lentils. Food packages are in the process of being distributed and emergency kits are ready to be sent out.

French Islamic Relief in Morocco teamed up with two other local organizations to help those living in poverty, orphans, elderly people and widows. So far 1,315 families have been helped equating to almost 7,890 people. Packages including sugar, flour, oil, chickpeas, lentils, vermicelli rice and dates have been distributed to those in need.  A Moroccan widow, Fatna, is in her sixties. She has five kids, but due to her health condition, she cannot work. She says she does not know what she would do without the help she has received during the holiday month, and is extremely grateful.

Many more citizens, both Muslim and not, are able to break their fast with delicious meals thanks to Islamic Reliefs efforts around the world.

– Kim Tierney

Sources: Youphil, Secours Islamique, Islamic Relief, Le Matin, AJIB, Islam & Info
Photo: Islamic Relief

As many Senegalese begin celebrating Ramadan, those with diabetes must be particularly careful fasting and feasting because it can trigger complications, and put their health at risk.

Every year during Ramadan in Senegal, there is a spike in those needing urgent hospitalization due to uncontrolled diabetes. To help solve this problem is mDiabetes, a free service that sends text messages to mobile phones before, during and after the month of Ramadan to give those with diabetes tips and tricks to fasting safely.

Text messages include advice such as,

“Drink one liter of water every morning before you begin fasting.”

“Take care to not overeat and watch out for foods high in sugar such as dates.”

“Ask your doctor to adapt the dose and timing of your diabetes medication before you fast.”

Simple texts like these will help the thousands of people living in Senegal with diabetes, which has increased in the past decade due to rapid urbanization. Obesity in young people has escalated drastically, putting them at risk for type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that four to six percent of the Senegalese population are living with diabetes, at least 400,000 people, yet only 60,000 have been diagnosed.

Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that many are unaware that they even have diabetes since they do not know the causes or symptoms. This is particularly common in rural areas where access to health services is limited.

mDiabetes is part of a campaign by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) called, “Be [email protected] Be Mobile.” Through the use of technology such as text messages and apps, they can “control, prevent, and manage non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.”

Similar programs have been implemented in other countries such as the mCessation program in Costa Rica for tobacco, mCervical cancer program in Zambia and others like mHypoertension and mWellness have been planned for the future.

Eighty-three percent of the Senegalese population have mobile telephones, and 40 percent of those have smart phones, capable of receiving pictures and videos. Utilizing this technology that is becoming increasingly more prevalent in the daily lives of those around the world, is effective way to educate thousands, at no cost to the public.

Thanks to mDiabetes, this Ramadan thousands of Senegalese will be able to fully practice their faith without risking their health.

— Kim Tierney

Sources: World Health Organization, Diabetes and Ramadan International Alliance
Photo: Hong Kiat

With the lunar calendar entering its ninth month, marked by the crescent moon, Muslims around the world begin fasting rituals in reverence of the holy month of Ramadan. For an entire month—this year Monday July 8th through Wednesday August 7th—the Muslim world spend the daylight hours abstaining from food, water, smoking, swearing, and sex. As part of the Islamic tradition, and one of the five pillars of Islam, the month is reserved as a time for spiritual introspection, self-improvement, and greater devotion to the teachings of Mohammad. Notably, the holiday urges the believer into pursuing the Zakat, or, providing alms for the poor.

A principal tenet of the Ramadan fasting practice, or Sawm, is to inspire empathy for the poor. The ascetic practice of not eating food allows the faster to be able to internalize the plight of those who do not have access to basic foodstuffs.

In the Islamic tradition, the tenet of the Zakat requires all Muslims that are able to give alms to the poor and do their part in eliminating poverty. Simply put, the practice of fasting compels the Muslim world to become philanthropists. The Qu’ran at [17:26-29] instructs, “You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the traveling alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant.”

Hamzi Wanis, an Egyptian Businessman addressed the philanthropic properties of the holiday saying, “the concept of abstaining from eating from sunrise to sunset makes us feel the daily suffering of poor people who really cannot afford food to eat every day as they are poor. It’s the time when we should stand hand-in-hand with poor people and make them smile by offering them food and donating money to them,” The Gulf Times reported.

Despite intense heat and even hotter political turmoil in parts of the Muslim world, the Islamic tradition continues undisturbed.

– Thomas van der List

Sources: Global Times, Gulf Today, Progressive Muslim, Just Zakat
Photo: Denver Post

This year, the United Arab Emirates will connect the religious period of Ramadan with the theme of World Environment Day, “reduce your footprint”. Traditionally a time of introspection, fasting, and prayer, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is an important time of  year, and the impact of an environmental movement during this time could be very powerful.

The Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi has partnered with charitable organizations to donate 250 meals of untouched leftover food to homeless. The agency is committed to this goal for the next 5 years. The program will be introduced at the beginning of Ramadan and launched at the end of the month around August 7.

Organic waste accounts for nearly 395 of all total household waste in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This organic waste actually increases the percentage of waste in landfills and leads to the increase in carbon emissions as well. According to UN experts, this type of waste in landfills emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. To combat this environmental issue, The Environmental Agency will use the month of Ramadan as a moral incentive to protect the environment by reducing food waste. Using a quote from the Quran, the agency encourages people to make only enough food for the guests at the table and to measure portions amongst other environmentally friendly actions.

By reducing food waste, more meals can be delivered to the poor.  Quattro Group, a food service company, will provide restaurants with 250 uneaten meals from cafes and restaurants. These meals will be given to the Saving Grace Project, which will then hand them over to low-income communities. The food-handling team has established a timetable to collect and distribute meals efficiently, as well as ensuring that health and safety are top priorities.

In addition to the food donation program, the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi has launched its own awareness campaign to encourage people throughout the country to consider waste when making food decisions. Fozeya Ibrahim Al Mahmoud, director of the agency’s environmental outreach division, has stated that waste reduction is vital for a nation with limited food and water resources. To Mahmoud and other, Ramadan is the ideal time to begin to instill a new culture of reducing food waste.

The campaign incorporates religious values with 10 tips on reducing your carbon footprint. Tips range from planning meals, avoiding grocery shopping when hungry, composting organic waste, to donating food to those in need.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: Muslim Village, The National
Photo: Washington Post