Integration and Implementation of Better Gender-Sensitive Cooling Policies and Strategies

Cool Infrastructures team attended the recent Sustainable Energy for All  #ThisisCool Webinar on Cooling for All and Gender: Towards Inclusive, Sustainable Cooling Solutions on Tuesday 30th March 2021.

Here Dr Anindrya Nastiti reflects on gender sensitive cooling policies and strategies

Women inequality is not only a social problem. The accessibility of women to some infrastructures, in particular the cooling infrastructure, is very poor and unfair. So, towards SDGs point 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) and SDGs point 7 (Ensure access to modern energy that is affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern for all), we need several solutions to address this inequality problem immediately.

Despite the global effort to tackle the impact of climate change, specifically the effect of increasing temperature, there is still a lack of gender-sensitive research, policies, and strategies in delivering access to cooling infrastructure. Increasing global temperature and the lack of access to the cooling infrastructure exacerbate the poor living and working condition that women and girls faces in less developed areas, in addition to their existing experience of inadequate access to education, healthcare, employment and other services. There are three ways that lack of access to cooling infrastructure threatens the quality of life of women around the globe: health & wellbeing, poverty & household dynamics; and workplace.

First, higher temperature intensifies women health and well being vulnerability. Women are biologically having lower abilities to cope with heat, especially during pregnancy. Extreme heat and heatwaves pose risk to the fetus as the mother experience heat exhaustion. Furthermore, as women bear the responsibility of childcare and household work, the workload and the inadequate cooling infrastructure could further harm their health. The lack of refrigeration for example, result in the decrease of the women ability to provide better quality of food for the family.

Second, women are more vulnerable to heat exposure due to poverty and household dynamic. Poverty lowers the ability for household to access cooling infrastructure or opt for better design in living arrangement, in addition, the gender-imbalance within household also worsen the ability for women to voice their needs or act on those needs. Living in underserved communities may also cause the families to have to commute longer distance, and as women are more likely to take public transportation that a lot of the times has limited or no cooling system, it extends the exposure of heat for women.

Lastly, women are facing extreme heat exposure in the workplace. Women are significantly more likely to work in the informal sector such as working as street vendors, seasonal workers, or domestic workers. The informal setting of work also means there are extremely limited protection to the workplace hazard such working long hours and absence of ventilation. On the other hand, women working in the formal sector also faces challenges such as the constant use of heavy machinery in factories or prolonged heat exposure in the agriculture industry.

To this day, these challenges are difficult to deal with as there is still a shortage of data and research that are gender-specific, thus, consequently the policies and strategies that are gender-specific is also still very scarce. To ensure that we can create more equity in providing access to cooling infrastructure, there are four steps of action we can take collectively:

  1. To collect and conduct research that incorporate evaluate the experience of women: Gender-specific data and analysis will produce better quality and precise policies and strategies.
  2. To support workplace safety, community heat planning and personal comfort: Gender-transformative policies, plans and regulation will protect women as one of the most vulnerable groups to extreme heat exposure.
  3. To invest and finance gender-sensitive solution: Support in funding and financing in the gender-sensitive product and solution will boost women access to cooling infrastructure.
  4. To support attention and awareness raising on the issue: Gender-specific communication and education material could support the increase the agency and empower the women that are facing these challenges and those who are in power to change the policies and strategies in the area/region.

In the same spirit and awareness, Cool Infrastructure project is also concerned with the same issues, heat and gender. Our project sets out to fill specific gaps in evidence and data on cooling in India, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Indonesia, as well as globally. Over 36 months, we will put ‘access to cooling’ at the centre of a major new interdisciplinary and comparative study of human-infrastructure interaction in ‘the off-grid city’.

Gobeshona Global Conference 2021

On January 23rd 2021, Cool Infrastructures Karachi team member Adam Abdullah presented at a session titled “Climate Adaptive Heat Stress Management in South Asia” hosted jointly by the Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe), India, and the Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN), and supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The session was part of the 7th Gobeshona International Conference, organized by the International Centre for Climate Change & Development (ICCCAD).

The theme of this year’s Gobeshona Conference was ‘Research into action on locally led adaptation’. Adam presented on heat management practices of low-income, off-grid populations during the Covid pandemic. The data was drawn from a GeoPoll survey conducted during June-July 2020 in 4 cities across the Global South, as part of the larger Cool Infrastructures project. The analysis included crosstabulations of various vulnerability indicators, and speculated on some tentative insights drawn from the survey data. It talked of the ways in which vulnerable communities are affected by disruptive events such as containment due to a pandemic, which when compounded by high indoor temperatures, loss of income, and reduction in water intake, can lead to extreme outcomes such as heat stroke and death. The presentation was a follow up to the Covid-Heat Nexus presentation made by Dr Elspeth Opperman, also part of the Cool Infrastructures team, at the Anticipation Hub (https://coolinfrastructures.com/2020/12/14/cool-infrastructures-at-anticipation-hubs-8th-global-dialogue-forumhttps-www-anticipation-hub-org-global-dialogue-platform-2020-anticipation-hub/) earlier in December 2020.

It was an exciting session, and Adam got a chance to interact with individuals and organizations working in India on heat management and heat-related policymaking. The session acknowledged the need to focus on chronic exposure to heat, not just heat waves as discrete risk events. Prof Jyoti K Parikh, Executive Director, IRADe chaired the session. Notable speakers included Dr Subhash Chander Bhan, scientist at the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), who spoke on early warning systems in place in India, and evaluated Indian heat action plans; Prof. Ajit Tyagi, Former Director General of the IMD, who spoke on heat impacts and heat stress management in South Asia, and the increase in heatwave days over time; and Dr. Vijendra Ingole, who presented interesting meta-analyses of the relationship between ambient temperature/heat waves and mortalities in the South Asian context. The proceedings of the session can be accessed online at:

We look forward to discussing our ongoing work at more events in the future, and will keep you updated here as we produce and share new knowledge!


Adam Abdullah is a Senior Research Associate at the Karachi Urban Lab, IBA Karachi and works on urban issues, social-demographic analysis, and on conceptualizing compounded vulnerabilities through spatial and statistical data. He can be reached at: adam8juneabdullah@gmail.com and @a8junea on Twitter.

IRADe is an independent research institute based in New Delhi, India, focusing on policy analysis and engagement with stakeholders from various tiers of government, NGOs, the corporate sector, and academia. IRADe works towards effective solutions in climate change, energy systems, urban development, and gender equity. You can learn more about their work at: http://www.irade.org

The Canadian IDRC engages with knowledge, innovation, and workable solutions towards improving lives across the developing world. IDRC is also one of the major funding partners for KUL, and has supported two of KUL’s recent projects, on Land Displacement and on Gender and Violence. You can learn more about their work at: http://www.idrc.ca

Cool Infrastructures at the 8th Global Dialogue Platform

On Friday, Elspeth Oppermann from the Cool Infrastructures team presented the initial results of the Covid-Heat Nexus survey, in a session put together by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and the Global Heat Health Information network.

Don’t forget you can find the new, cleaned-up data set for India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Cameroon’s survey responses here.

Also presenting in the session was Sarah Barr from the START Network, discussing the Heat Wave Action Plan they trialled in Karachi, Pakistan, over the summer of 2020, and Joy Shumake-Guillemot from the WHO-WMO Climate Health Office who provided an update on global advice on heat-health and Covid-19.

The session took place on Day 3 of the inaugural event of the Anticipation Hub, which is taking up the role of one-stop-shop for knowledge exchange, learning and guidance on anticipatory action. It was was formally launched at the Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action on December 8th and is a joint initiative between the German Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Climate Centre. It brings together 50+ partners across the Red Cross Red Crescent network, universities, research institutes, (I)NGOs, UN agencies, governments and network initiatives, with funding support from the German Federal Foreign Office. 

It was great to see all the activities and excellent presentations during the 3 days of this event. We were pleased to be able to offer some short excerpts and insights from the survey responses, discussing changing exposure to heat as a result of the lockdown, difficulties with using fans given limited power supply and the nuances of messaging about covid and fan use. Some excerpts from the slides are below.

Covid-Heat Survey: refined dataset now available

Since uploading the raw data a few months ago, the team has been hard at work cleaning it up for greater ease of use. We have been double-checking translations, coding open questions and removing superfluous information associated with the data collection process.

To view the new ‘cleaned-up’ dataset, go to the Edinburgh repository site here: https://datashare.is.ed.ac.uk/handle/10283/3804

These are the main changes, with a shout out to those who did the work:

Maximum daily temperature and corresponding relative humidity data added, and calculated in terms of the Heat Index (HI), for each survey date in each city. These values are now provided for each response. Thanks to Sajid Mehmood, Uni of Edinburgh, for putting this together – you can find his detailed methodology as one of the documents in the file.

English language translations were checked and in many cases completely re-done by members of the team: Aalok Khandekar (from Hindi); Anindrya Nastiti and Wika Maulany Fatimah (from Bahasa Indonesia); Kirsten Campbell (from French, for Cameroon); and Adam Abdullah (Urdu).

Open data on COVID-19 and Heat-Health published

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that poor communities living in high density urban environments across low- and middle-income countries in the Global South would confront the combined effects of COVID-19 and extreme heat. Whilst mitigation measures – such as lock-downs, home quarantines and social distancing – were going to prove difficult for affluent communities who had the means and space to follow them – they looked set to be devastating for communities living in high density informal settlements in urban areas. Mitigation measures looked set to exacerbate already precarious livelihoods by reducing income opportunities and exposing populations to heat stress, by keeping people in poorly insulated and poorly ventilated housing and reducing access to external cooling and hydration infrastructures and services.

Responding to a suggestion from the Red Cross Climate Centre, we developed a rapid research project to fill a critical gaps in our knowledge and understanding of these vulnerabilities, and the interplay with measures to slow the transmission of COVID-19. We secured funding from the Scottish Funding Council’s COVID-19 Urgency Fund to perform a large scale data collection exercise in four cities related to our Cool Infrastructures project: Karachi, Pakistan; Douala, Cameroon; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Hyderabad, India.

In collaboration with our partners in India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Cameroon as well as with input from national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, we assessed and developed the requirements for the survey. We developed a 30-question survey with the aim of providing critical information and resources about the nexus of COVID-19 and extreme heat for poor urban populations in Sub Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia. This survey includes filtering questions so that we only reach poor urban populations as well as questions about the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown measures on livelihood, heat stress and access to food/water/health care.

We contracted a commercial survey company, Geopoll, to conduct the survey in two waves in June and July. They collected over 1100 responses in each of the four cities. The survey results present extensive data sets which can be used to evaluate the interplay between COVID-19 measures, heat stress and livelihood for poor and vulnerable populations living in densely populated urban areas. We are currently in the process of analysising the data to generate vital knowledge, learning and tools that can be used to assist health responders, potentially reducing the impact of the virus and/or reducing the burden on health services, as well as unanticipated effects of COVID-19 containment and management protocols.

So that agencies who need the data can make use of it as soon as possible, we have mad the survey tool and the data sets publicly available. They can be downloaded using the links below. We hope that the survey will inspire further studies in these and other locations and circumstances and that the data will support the development of more sensitive COVID-19 measures that take the local circumstances into account.


Remote Survey Instrument: 30 multiple choice questions designed for mobile phone interviews on the nexus of COVID-19 and extreme heat for poor urban populations in the Global South. Available in 4 multi-lingual formats (Filetype: Microsoft Excel .xlxs)

English, Hindi, Urdu
English, Urdu, Pashto
English, Bahasa Indonesian
English, French, Fula

Datasets: Multi-country survey data, including data tables and full survey data for India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Cameroon. Creative Commons 4.0 License. Available in 1 Zip Package (Filetype: Comma Separated Values .csv).

India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Cameroon Heat-Health and COVID-19 Data

Work complete on large scale, remote survey to understand impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on heat stress

As part of our engagement on COVID-19, in August 2020 the Cool Infrastructures project completed a rapid, large scale data collection exercise across four cities in India, Pakistan, Cameroon and Indonesia. The exercise was intended to produce critical information and resources about the nexus of Covid-19 and extreme heat for particularly vulnerable urban populations.

The survey was designed to support the data needs of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, as they worked to respond to the pandemic.

Working with Geopoll, an international remote survey organisation, research teams in each country interviewed a total of 4,400 people. Our survey questions were designed to better understand the impact of measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 on heat stress.

The survey tool was developed with input from the Global Heat Health Information Network and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. Geopoll translated the survey into and ran the survey in two waves.  

The exercise was intended to generate new evidence about the impact of public health interventions around COVID-19 on heat health and to inform a range of stakeholders.

The survey outcomes will provide the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre with an initial analysis they can use to refine their responses to Covid-19.

The survey instrument is available for use by collaborators who are interested in replicating the study elsewhere. 

We are currently working to make the final dataset openly available for future research. This dataset contains the answers to 30 questions from 1100 people in four cities: Doula, Karachi, Hyderabad, and Jakarta.

The findings will be made available in September 2020 in a range of formats.

New Publication: “Heat and COVID-19 in the Off Grid City”

FROM SOMATOSPHERE: Amidst almost unstoppable contagion, many have hung their hopes on heat and humidity as a potential defence against contracting Covid-19. In the early months of the pandemic studies of SARS-CoV-2 suggested that the virus is transmitted less efficiently in higher temperatures or at higher rates of humidity, leading to encouraging newspaper headlines around the world, from London to Jakarta. ‘Everybody hopes for seasonality,’ one US epidemiologist told the New York Times in May 2020, even as comparative reviews of researchconcluded that summer temperatures might slow but would not halt the transmission of the coronavirus.

This 3000 word essay, published in Somatosphere, outlines the paradoxes for governments and urban authorities of managing heat and COVID-19 simultaneously.

Continue reading the full piece, here.

New Briefing Note on Informal Settlements for the Global Heat-Health Action Network

COVID-19 amplifies the risks of hot weather, and 2020 is on track to be one of the hottest years on record.

We worked with the Global Heat Health Action Network to develop a briefing note on issues and options to take into consideration when managing the health risks of extreme heat in informal settlements during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The technical briefing document on heat and COVID-19 in Informal Settlements is available here.

You can access the full information series here.