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article imageMongolia: -50c Temperatures Kills 2 Million Head of Livestock

By W.V. Fitzgerald     Feb 6, 2010 in World
As extreme winter temperatures fell as low as -50 c nearly 2 million head of livestock have died. Thousands of families in Mongolia could be facing a food and economic insecurity.
Mongolia is in the grip of what is known as "dzud", a natural disaster that is a combination of an unusually dry summer and fall followed by an extreme winter. The dry season left the nomadic herders with a shortage of food for their livestock for the winter months. Cattle, sheep, goats, horses and camels are dying from cold, exhaustion or starvation.
One nomadic herder, Mr. Baasanragchaa, told NTDTV:
"This autumn we counted over 400 head of livestock including sheep, goats and cattle. So far, over 200 are lost and there are only around 200 head left. But these survivors look unable to survive until the warmer season comes because they are so skinny, even though we are feeding them with hay and fodder.”
A rapid needs assessment conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has determined that Mongolia will need $6 million over the next three months to help herders make it through until spring.
The herders depend on these animals for milk, cashmere, meat and other livestock products. The government estimates that if the conditions remain the same up to four million head of livestock could be lost.
One-third of the population of Mongolia are nomadic herders who depend almost entirely on their livestock to make a living, so far economic losses are believed to top $60 million.
Tens of thousands of families own up to 300 head of livestock, 14 out of 21 provinces have been seriously affected, in eight provinces 21,000 families owning 100-300 head have lost over 50% of their livestock.
According to Xinhua up to 80% of Mongolia is covered in snow rangeing from 20 centimeters to 90 centimeters deep. Dundgobi Governor Sh. Turbat said:
"The current situation of continuous snow storms and extreme cold has caused a loss of thousands of livestock, leaving numerous herders without any source of livelihood, the disaster has caused an economic loss equivalent to 6.6 million U.S. dollars to the province,"
If aid does not arrive in time many will be forced into the cities in search of work, as incomes plummet and livestock feed prices rise.
More about Mongolia, Starvation, Extreme cold, Food insecurity
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