Mongolia appeals to world community for help to overcome most severe winter

Mongolia is hit by severe winter and danger of "Zud" disaster which hit Mongolia in 2000 is imminent.
Today, in press conference attended by foreign diplomatic corps in Ulaanbaatar and representatives of international organizations including World Bank, UN and ADB, Zandanshatar Gombojav, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade called for assistance from international community.

Below is speech made by the Minister today.

By Ganbat, reporter of MonInfo News Service

BRIEFING BY ZANDANSHATAR GOMBOJAV
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE,
ON BAD WINTERING


Ulaanbaatar, 18 January 2010

Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I wish to inform you that the Government of Mongolia is offering its sympathy to the people of Haiti who have suffered devastating earthquake consequences. Our condolences go also to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the families of UN staff who lost their lives while serving the humanitarian cause.

Everywhere in the world, we witness the dire consequences of climate change that result in frequented natural disasters.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mongolia is facing also a difficult time. An extreme cold weather has taken lives. Heavy snow falls have buried pastures. It seems to be the beginning of months of natural disaster that the international community has known as zud. Previously, a similar situation occurred in 1999 through 2002. Tens of human lives and a combined number of 11 million animals were lost in that zud. The international community gave their hands at that difficult time and helped relieve the severe consequences.

As experts say, a zud seems to happen every 10 or so years. Therefore, the Government of Mongolia is taking numerous actions to cope with this severe winter.

The State Emergency Commission has issued an appeal to all population, state and non-governmental organizations and private sector to launch an aid campaign to support herders materially and morally.

Within this campaign framework, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is organizing this briefing on the current situation.

Even in Ulaanbaatar we all could witness the temperature, coldest in recent years. The drop has been a record in many aimags. Most of the aimags are covered by up to 50 centimeters of snow. As of today, 776.7 thousand animals were lost. Many transport routes have been blocked by heavy snow.

The severe wintering hit altogether 198 soums in 19 aimags of which 94 soums in 8 aimags have plunged into a zud.

Weather forecasts suggest that snow falls and cold temperature will continue throughout January and February. This will amount to an end of pasture and fodder and a considerable loss of animals.

The Government’s priority is to prevent undue loss of human lives. Herders lose their lives while trying to save their animals. Therefore, the Government is delivering to most affected areas fodder and forage from its reserve to keep the herders in their winter refuge.

Heavy machinery, ambulance vehicles, trucks are mobilized to reach affected towns and families. Fuel costs are financed by the Government.

Though the Government and the population at large are doing their best, the severity and the duration of such an extreme weather could overwhelm our capacity and resources.

As you may know, about 70 percent of the territory suffered from drought last year. That means the pastural capacity shrank considerably. This coupled with heavy snow and cold temperature will starve many animals to death. The peak usually happens in April and May.

The loss of their only living source will devastate herders’ families. Economic and social impacts will be disastrous.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite our efforts, we might need additional assistance and support from our donors and partners. The Mongolians always appreciate the help and support rendered by our friendly countries and organizations during the past natural calamities.

Supply of emergency essentials that help save lives will be most welcome. These might include warm clothing, portable power and heating devices, high calorie foods, first-aid kits, etc.

I think we could have saved many lives had the herders had human tracking devices.

If we save as many as possible animals, that would help prevent many primary and secondary aftermaths. Therefore, it is essential to provide those most needed with animal fodders, animal shelters and clothing.

Finally, I should tell you that it is not yet a “Red Alert” situation. However, we seem to be moving closer to it. Therefore, I ask you to consider what you can do if a disaster becomes imminent.

Nevertheless, as we know, prevention is better than cure. That is why we wish to cooperate with you on preventive measures to the extent possible to minimize possible negative consequences for our herders and their living source.

In conclusion, I thank you for your time and care. If any questions, our respective ministries and agencies are present here to give detailed answers.

Thank you.


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