Dire winter triggers livestock disaster in Mongolia

Mongolia, 2 Feb 2010 -- 21 000 families risk food insecurity and poverty

Beijing/Ulaanbaatar, 2 February 2010 – Temperatures plunging to -50C have killed 1.7 million heads of livestock in Mongolia, threatening the livelihoods of 21 000 most seriously affected herder families and putting them at risk of food insecurity, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

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

A spell of intense cold, with temperatures plummeting to minus 40-50C followed on 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.

More deaths feared

The ongoing Dzud has resulted in huge livestock losses, with 1.7 million deaths counted as at 31 January. If current conditions persist, the Government estimates that losses could reach 3-4 million heads of livestock by the 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 US$62 million. Also substantial numbers of wild life are dying.

Fourteen of Mongolia's 21 Aimags, or provinces, are considered seriously affected. According to the FAO assessment mission, in 8 Aimags 21 000 herder families owning between 100 and 300 heads of livestock each have lost more than 50 percent of their herds.

Food insecurity

The affected families face increased levels of food and livelihood insecurity as their cash income rapidly declines and prices of fodder climb sharply as compared to last year.

If assistance is not provided very soon, the mission warned, spreading poverty will lead to mass migration to the cities later this year.

The FAO mission stresses the urgent need to strengthen household food security for the most vulnerable families to prevent further loss of their livelihood assets, and proposes immediate livestock input support for the most vulnerable herders as a top priority.

In parallel, fodder, supplementary feed and veterinary care is urgently needed for weak and stressed animals until mid-April, amounting to funding requirements of US$6 million. Detailed project profiles are under preparation for submission to donors.

Medicinal supplement

FAO's Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific provided, as immediate assistance to protect and maintain the productivity of already severely stressed dairy cattle breeding nucleus, 5 000 boluses with a medicinal food supplement for dairy cows, pregnant heifers and young bulls.

Medium-term interventions should focus on disaster preparedness and risk reduction plans and strategies, and FAO is ready to provide assistance to the country as required.

The Mongolian government's special budget allocation of US$2.6 million for emergency aid to Dzud-affected areas, contributions from local Aimag citizen committees and pledges from neighboring countries need to be further supplemented by external support given the high logistical, operational and distribution costs involved. As a result, FAO also calls for coordination support to the Agricultural Cluster in Mongolia.

Mongolia cover an area of 1.6 million sq. km, which is roughly the size of Western Europe.

The FAO mission visited Mongolia from 27 January to 1 February and briefed stakeholders on its findings in Ulaanbaatar on 1 February and in Beijing earlier today.

For more information, contact Rajendra Aryal, FAO senior emergency coordination based in Bangkok, at email Rajendra.Aryal@fao.org or Oyundelger Nataa, FAO assistant representative in Mongolia, at email Oyundelger.Nataa@fao.org

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Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)


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