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Severe Mongolia winter causes livestock disaster

Nineteen out of Mongolia's 21 provinces have been hit by heavy snow (Sabine Schmidt)
Nineteen out of Mongolia's 21 provinces have been hit by heavy snow
Sabine Schmidt

Freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall have killed 2.7 million camels, goats, yaks and horses, and threaten the livelihoods of 21,000 herding families in Mongolia, FAO has reported. The government has predicted that, if conditions persist, 3-4 million livestock could be dead by spring. To provide herders with an income, the UN's Development Programme (UNDP) has initiated a US$4 million cash-for-work programme to collect and bury dead livestock, to prevent soil pollution and the spread of diseases such as anthrax and salmonella. In addition, FAO has called for immediate livestock input support, including fodder, supplementary feed and veterinary care for the most vulnerable herders to prevent further loss of their assets.

The extreme conditions, known as dzud, are the combination of a severe summer drought, which did not produce enough fodder to feed livestock during the winter, followed by winter temperatures of minus 40-50°C. In a country where a third of the population is nomadic and depend on their livestock, the lack of fodder and freezing temperatures have severely impacted the only source of food and income that many families depend on. FAO warns that if adequate assistance is not provided soon, spreading poverty will lead to mass migration to the cities later in the year.

Date published: March 2010


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