It’s so hot in India, an insurer is helping thousands of women buy food

By Diksha Madhok, CNN

New Delhi CNN  —  A one-of-its-kind insurance policy has started making payouts to tens of thousands of women across India to help them cope with the impact of extreme heat.

Fifty thousand women in 22 districts across the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat received a $5 payments as temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) last month in several parts of the country.

“This is the first time that insurance payouts and a direct cash assistance program have been combined to supplement the income of women when it’s dangerously hot,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, CEO of Climate Resilience for All, a not-for-profit organization that designed the insurance in partnership with India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a trade union with nearly three million members.

From small farmers to casual laborers, many SEWA members depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and that makes them particularly vulnerable to climate change. Indian women working in agriculture typically earn about 300 rupees ($3.60) per day.

Outdoor work in such extreme heat can lead to chronic rashes, dizziness, burns, infections, and miscarriage, according to Climate Resilience for All. Such high temperatures can also destroy crops or merchandise, which can have a debilitating impact on household debt for low-income families.

The insurance is underwritten by Swiss Re and provided locally by ICICI Lombard.

More than 46,000 women were given additional insurance payments, with some receiving up to $19.80 each. Overall payments across the program amounted to over $340,000, Climate Resilience for All said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The money from the program has allowed me to pay for my medical expenses and to buy food for my family,” said Arunaben Makwana, one of the beneficiaries, said in the statement.

The insurance plan is currently offered to members of SEWA, who work across India’s vast informal sector. According to McLeod, the program may be rolled out to more communities across South Asia, as well as east and west Africa in the coming year.

Toiling under the burning sun

Such insurance initiatives may become critical worldwide as policymakers grapple with a much hotter planet.

India has endured a scorching summer — with a part of the capital of Delhi recording the country’s highest-ever temperature of 49.9 degrees Celsius (121.8 Fahrenheit) last month.

Rising mercury levels in the country risks reversing progress on poverty alleviation, health and economic growth, experts say.

India is “expected to lose about 5.8 percent of daily working hours due to heat stress in 2030,” said a United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) report in April.

“The problem is most severe for outdoor workers, particularly those employed in agriculture and construction, but also relevant for indoor factory workers,” it added.

Related Articles

Back to top button