United Nations warns extreme cold, heavy snow in Mongolia threatens lives

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — The United Nations warned Monday that extreme winter weather that has killed more than 1 million livestock in Mongolia is likely to harm the country's food supply and worsen poverty.

Nineteen of Mongolia's 21 provinces have been hit by heavy winter snow and temperatures that have plunged below minus 40 degrees (minus 40 degrees Celsius), the organization said in a statement.

The extreme winter in the poor, landlocked country sandwiched between China and Russia followed a summer drought that prevented farmers from stockpiling food for livestock.

"The poor did not have the resources to stockpile food or fuel for heating and the supplies in the now inaccessible villages as a whole are stretched," said Rana Flowers, the U.N.'s resident co-ordinator in Mongolia.

The cold and heavy snow have already killed more than 1 million livestock, the organization said, citing the National Emergency Management Agency. More than a third of Mongolians herd livestock for a living.

Flowers said U.N. agencies were trying to reach the worst-hit people, and are particularly concerned about pregnant women cut off from medical facilities by the heavy snow - three have reportedly died in childbirth so far, she said. The agencies are also worried about pneumonia rates among children and pregnant women, and increasing malnutrition.

The U.N. is co-ordinating all donor contributions to Mongolia, after the government asked for food, medicine, heating supplies, warm clothing and money to buy and deliver food for livestock, the statement said.

Source:AP (Associated Press) news agency
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