Fighting for survival in Mongolia

Geneva, February 22, 2000
As Mongolians watch their herds die in freezing temperatures, the Red Cross is moving in to help. The International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies today launched an appeal for 815,000 Swiss francs to assist nearly 30,000 herdsmen and their families cope with the catastrophic loss of their livestock, brought on by the worst snow and frost in 30 years.

Snowfall started abnormally early in October following a severe summer drought, which seriously weakened the herds and their ability to build up reserves. The freezing temperatures (as low as -45=B0C) are expected to last a further 3 months. More than 500,000 cattle, sheep and goats have died in seven of the country's 21 provinces so far with another 2,000 animals dying each day. The disaster is expected to escalate in the coming months, as the herds were not able to mate in such a weakened state, further adding to the already disastrous loss of stock.

The head of the Mongolian Red Cross Society's disaster relief department, Batgerel Gombojav, says another 500,000 animals are expected to die by spring: "We estimate that in the next few weeks at least 2,000 households will lose all their animals, their entire livelihoods. We need to get help to them as soon as possible."

With no dairy products to eat, an important part of their diet, malnutrition is just around the corner. The dead animals mean not only no food, but also no heat for the families to keep warm. Animal dung is traditionally used for fuel and many families are now having to burn their furniture for warmth. After launching a national appeal, the Mongolian Red Cross is helping 800 families in two provinces with candles, matches, flour and warm clothing.

With the situation set to worsen still with winter blizzards expected, immediate needs are for more emergency food supplies and winter boots to help herdsmen who have lost their horses, search for livestock on foot. The Mongolian Red Cross has dedicated a team of relief experts with extensive experience in relief operations, as well as mobilizing its extensive nationwide network of grassroot volunteers, to carry out the emergency relief programme. Delegates from the East Asia regional office in Beijing and from the regional delegation in Kuala Lumpur were dispatched to the region to assess the situation.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:

In Beijing:
Jim Robertson, Federation representative, Tel. (8610) 65 22 47 84
Mobile: (86) 1380136 5947

In Geneva
Solveig Olafsdottir, Information Officer Tel: (41 22) 730 4296
Mobile: (41 79) 217 3345

The International Federation, the ICRC and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies together constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

=A9 1999 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies