Deadly summer heat takes a toll on migrant workers in Qatar; student group ‘Aegis’ launch programme to provide workers with cooling vests
“My life here is like a prison. The work is difficult, we worked for many hours in the hot sun.” These were the words one of migrant worker assisting with the construction of one of the 2020 World Cup stadiums. Amnesty International has reported, “The government’s response raises serious questions about Qatar’s willingness to protect the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers living in the country.”
It is a known fact that migrant workers are perishing in the process of constructing the stadium. These workers are often in desperate economic situations and are simply trying to send money back home to their families in countries such as Pakistan. Construction jobs in the Gulf region appear to offer promise. However, workers soon learn that construction work in this region is not exactly a dream job. They are often overworked, live in deplorable conditions, realize that their contracts are not being respected, and find themselves unable to leave the country.
One particularly deadly issue in Qatar is the heat; the average temperature during the summer months is 37 degrees Celsius. Nearly 3,000 migrant workers have died as a result of heat-related causes since 2013.
After learning about this issue, students at the University of Toronto decided to take action. They created a non-profit organization, Aegis, in order to help address this problem through the distribution of cooling vests. The vests lower the wearer’s body temperature and are able to prevent the heart damage that is regularly dealt to workers by the heat.
The Aegis team was formed in early 2016, and received funding from the Munk School of Global Affairs Big Idea Competition a few months later. They proceeded to launch a vest trial in early May. One hundred vests were taken to a Six Construct site near Doha, Qatar and given out to workers. Health data collected on site highlighted that workers were in fact enduring substantial heat stress. Results have shown that vest wearers body temperatures are approximately 2-3 degrees Celsius lower than non-vest users. Since the launch of the pilot program, there has not been a single heat related injury for vest wearers on the Six Construct site.
With partners such as Inuteq Personal Cooling, Six Construct, and Hybrid Logistics, Aegis is working towards providing all workers across the Gulf Region with this lifesaving safety tool. While members of this student-run organization come from a variety of fields ranging from International Relations to Life Science, they all agree that the mistreatment of migrant workers in the Gulf region is an issue that deserves more attention. They are dedicated to expanding their efforts, getting more youth involved, and doing their best to address these disturbing violations of human rights. Founder and President, Adam Sheikh, says that when watching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, fans must not forget that many workers died while constructing a venue for our entertainment.
If you would like to support the work of Aegis, you can participate in our One for One Sponsorship Program. With the purchase of a $30.00 t-shirt, a vest will be donated to a worker on your behalf. For more information, please visit http://www.ouraegis.com.
Pic Courtesy: Aegis