BURKINA FASO – Extreme heat, pregnancy and women’s well-being in Burkina Faso: an ethnographical study 

by Kadidiatou Kadio, Veronique Filippi, Mariam Congo, Fiona Scorgie, Nathalie Roos, Adélaïde Lusambili, Brit Nakstad, Sari Kovats, Seni Kouanda

BMJ Global Health  21 February 2024 

Climate change is an increasing threat to the health of populations in Africa, with a shift in seasonal temperatures towards more extreme heat exposures. In Burkina Faso, like other countries in the Sahel, many women have little protection against exposure to high temperatures, either outside or inside the home or place of work. This paper investigates how women perceive the impacts of heat on their physical and mental health, in addition to their social relationships and economic activities. Qualitative methods (in-depth interviews and focus group discussions) were conducted with women, community representatives and healthcare professionals in two regions in Burkina Faso. A thematic analysis was used to explore the realities of participants’ experiences and contextual perspectives in relation to heat. Our research shows extreme temperatures have a multifaceted impact on pregnant women, mothers and newborns. Extreme heat affects women’s functionality and well-being. Heat undermines a woman’s ability to care for themselves and their child and interferes negatively with breast feeding. Heat negatively affects their ability to work and to maintain harmonious relationships with their partners and families. Cultural practices such as a taboo on taking the baby outside before the 40th day may exacerbate some of the negative consequences of heat. Most women do not recognise heat stress symptoms and lack awareness of heat risks to health. There is a need to develop public health messages to reduce the impacts of heat on health in Burkina Faso. Programmes and policies are needed to strengthen the ability of health professionals to communicate with women about best practices in heat risk management.