Dire winter triggers livestock disaster in Mo...

Dire winter triggers livestock disaster in Mongolia

Temperatures plunging to -50°C have killed 1.7 million head of livestock in Mongolia, threatening the livelihoods of 21 000 herder families and putting them at risk of food insecurity, FAO warned.

An FAO rapid needs assessment on the impact of the disaster has found that urgent external assistance of some $6 million is needed over the next two to three months to help the herders make it through to spring.

A spell of intense cold, with temperatures plummeting to minus 40-50°C followed a very dry and long summer and autumn which produced insufficient fodder to feed livestock during the winter months. Such extreme weather is known locally as a Dzud.

The ongoing Dzud has resulted in huge livestock losses, with 1.7 million deaths counted as of 31 January. If current conditions persist, the government estimates that losses could reach 3-4 million head of livestock by spring.

One third of the population of Mongolia lead nomadic lives and depend entirely on livestock for a living. Their cattle, sheep, goats, horses and camels are the main household asset and are perishing from cold, exhaustion or starvation. Total economic losses so far are estimated at $62 million. Also, substantial numbers of wildlife are dying.

Fourteen of Mongolia’s 21 provinces are considered seriously affected. According to the FAO assessment mission, in eight provinces 21 000 herder families owning between 100 and 300 head of livestock each have lost more than 50% of their herds.

FAO's Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific has provided 5 000 doses of medicinal food supplement for dairy cows, pregnant heifers and young bulls as immediate assistance.

Mongolia covers an area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area roughly the size of Western Europe.
Source: FAO – Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations