Chronic heat stress – exacerbated by climate change – causes chronic kidney injury and early death for workers in Nicaraguan sugar plantations and mills. Community organisers at one particularly badly affected mill, Ingenio San Antonio, have now developed a programme to protect workers. They teamed up with scientists from La Isla Network, a specialist group set up to help protect workers from climate impacts. The programme is simple, replicable and effective: it consists mainly of drinking water, shade and rest at appropriate intervals. Rates of kidney injury are declining and the programme is being rolled out as the Adelante Initiative in other areas, including mills in Mexico.
Extreme temperatures from climate impacts are costing lives and livelihoods around the world. More than 5 million people die globally every year due to excessive heat or cold, and 37% of all heat-related deaths are now linked to the climate crisis. Manual labourers around the world are in the frontlines of this crisis and when they fall sick in countries like Nicaragua this then drives child labour, as children are often forced to enter the workforce to replace the income from their affected parent. In this context, worker heat protection programmes and policies are becoming a vital consideration for adaptation and just transition thinking.