Huge horse and livestock losses in Mongolian winter

Mongolian herders have lost massive numbers of horses, goats, sheep, camels, cows and yaks in a harsh winter, the United Nationals Development Programme reports.

It estimates that 2.7 million livestock have perished nationwide during a winter of extreme cold and snow - known locally as a dzud - with another three million at risk of death by the end of the cold season in June. The UN has announced a cash-for-work scheme under which herders will earn income to clear and bury the carcasses, many of which are still lying in the open.

The carcasses, if not disposed of properly, pose threats involving the spread of diseases, infections and soil pollution.
The extreme cold and heavy snow experienced in Mongolia - with temperatures dipping as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius - followed a very dry and long summer and autumn, during which insufficient livestock feed was produced to provide for the animals for the winter months.

The UN initiative will not only help to reduce health risks for people but also provide income for herders whose livelihoods have been devastated with the death of their livestock, in a country where one third of the population rely on herding and agriculture.

"While immediate needs of food, shelter, heating and health care must be met, this approach would prevent the spread of diseases and also help herders to feed their families during the dzud," said Akbar Usmani, a UN resident representative in Mongolia.

"Livestock is the cornerstone of existence for so many Mongolians and many people have lost all their direct income and food source," he added.

The cash-for-work project aims to reach 60,000 herders, with special emphasis on those with fewer than 200 animals who have been particularly adversely affected. The UN programme has already contributed $US300,000 towards the $US4 million requested by the Government for removing the carcasses.


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