Se­vere cold threat­ens Mon­go­lian herders

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

Mon­go­lian herder Munkhbat Bazarragchaa drags two sheep killed by ex­treme cold to a pile of dead an­i­mals in Khu­vs­gul prov­ince, north­ern Mongolia. Thou­sands of herders face dis­as­trous live­stock losses from an ex­treme weather phe­nom­e­non called a dzud, char­ac­ter­ized by heavy snow and cold reach­ing - 50 C af­ter a dry sum­mer. Some 42,000 head of live­stock have al­ready died, and the Red Cross has launched an in­ter­na­tional emer­gency aid ap­peal.

Thou­sands of Mon­go­lian herders face dis­as­trous live­stock losses from dreaded se­vere weather known as the “dzud”, the Red Cross said on Thurs­day in launch­ing an in­ter­na­tional emer­gency aid ap­peal.

Land­locked Mongolia is grap­pling for the se­cond straight year with losses from dzud con­di­tions — a dry sum­mer fol­lowed by bit­ter win­ter cold that leaves live­stock and other an­i­mals at risk of star­va­tion and ex­po­sure on the coun­try’s rugged steppes.

It threat­ens tens of thou­sands of herders in a coun­try where al­most half the pop­u­la­tion de­pends en­tirely on live­stock for food, trans­porta­tion and in­come, the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Red Cross and Red Cres­cent So­ci­eties, or IFRC, said.

Cat­tle, sheep and other an­i­mals usu­ally die en masse in the dzud, weak­ened by in­suf­fi­cient sum­mer graz­ing that pre­vents them build­ing up the fat re­serves nec­es­sary to with­stand win­ter tem­per­a­tures, which can plum­met as low as -50 C.

“In spring, an­i­mals give birth and when the live­stock are al­ready ex­hausted from the win­ter they are at high risk with­out ad­e­quate feed, shel­ter and vet­eri­nar­ian care, which does not ex­ist in some re­mote ar­eas of the coun­try,” said Nor­dov Bolor­maa, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Mon­go­lian Red Cross.

As of this month, more than 42,000 live­stock had al­ready per­ished in the cur­rent dzud, the state­ment said.

“This fig­ure is ex­pected to grow ex­po­nen­tially in the months ahead when a long harsh spring takes hold af­ter the ex­tremely cold win­ter,” the Red Cross said, adding that more than 157,000 peo­ple are “at risk” across 17 of Mongolia’s 21 prov­inces.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of live­stock are re­ported to have died in the 2015-16 dzud.

The re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tion hopes to raise enough to as­sist 11,000 of the hard­est-hit house­holds, in­clud­ing pro­vi­sion of cash grants, first-aid kits, and funds to help com­mu­ni­ties pre­pare for fu­ture dzuds.

Thou­sands of Mongolia house­holds lead a no­madic ex­is­tence as herders amid Mongolia’s vast plains and moun­tains, and re­cur­ring dzud con­di­tions are blamed for forc­ing many into a marginal­ized ur­ban ex­is­tence in Ulaan­baatar.

MIRVA HELENIUS/ IFRC / AFP

MIRVA HELENIUS VIA AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A herder re­ceives food and re­lief items from the Mon­go­lian Red Cross in Khu­vs­gul prov­ince, Mongolia, on Mon­day.

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