Senegal: Life in the hottest place on Earth
The Senegalese region of Matam is currently considered to be the hottest place on Earth. The extreme heat, along with water shortages, is making conditions even harder for Fulani nomads.
Cooling down in the mosque
From the cool mosque back into the sun: People in the city of Matam, capital of a Muslim-dominated region in northeastern Senegal, live in constant heat. With temperatures around 48 degrees Celsius (118 F) in the shade and over 50 degrees in the sun, the region has been considered the hottest place on Earth since April.
Only stepping outside for prayers
Especially for older people such as 82-year-old Doiubayrou Dianka, the extreme heat brings the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory problems. During the day, Dianka hides from the sun and heat in his bedroom, which he only leaves now and then for a walk to the mosque.
Dark but still hot
But, even inside buildings, most people can't escape the high temperatures. Many don't have electricity so they can't operate fans, let alone air conditioning. Even at night, temperatures can reach 35 degrees.
In search of water
The extreme heat has hit the more remote parts of the Matam region particularly hard. Through the dry Sahel steppe, Fulani pastoral nomads traditionally drive their cattle herds to the few remaining water points. Today, many Fulani — also known regionally as Fulbe, Fula or Peul — live mostly sedentary lives, though often without a secure supply of clean water.
The extreme heat doubles the water needs of the Fulani's stock. Sheep in Matam usually drink 2.5 liters (2.65 quarts) of water a day, but, in the current heat wave, they need up to 5. Clean water is a precious commodity in a region where rain falls only a few months a year.
The ordeal of fetching water
The already-arduous task of procuring water in this region is becoming increasingly difficult: in order to supply themselves and the cattle, the herders are now forced to set out several times a day on foot or with donkey teams to the remaining water points, often having to cover up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) through the dry heat — each way.
Waterholes instead of water pipes
The natural lakes and rivers in the Matam region dry up from November on. Digging waterholes in dry riverbeds then becomes one of the only ways to get water in the remote region. Clean water is in absolute short supply during the summer months.
Water from the well
Many Fulani families also use the dirty water from the cattle wells. The Great Green Wall Project, which is supposed to protect Sahel countries from further desertification with a wide strip of trees, has so far had little positive effect in the Matam region.