The animals have suffered agonizing slow deaths of exposure and starvation. Many animals were in a weakened state already due to a severe drought last summer. Carcasses line rural roads, as herders battle the elements to skin them in hopes of selling their hides.
While there have been few reports of human fatalities, the death of so many animals will have far-reaching impact on the health, economy and food security of an entire nation. Many of Mongolia's 2.7 million people depend on livestock for food and hides, and make their living selling their goats' much-prized cashmere wool.
"Animals are the foundation of Mongolia's economy," says Mercy Corps' Program Officer for Mongolia, Rachel Lieber. "Losing this number of animals so quickly is devastating. The impact will be felt even more in the spring when herders normally sell the cashmere and skins, and the resources aren't going to be there."
The government of Mongolia has declared this the worst disaster to befall Mongolia in 30 years. They have worked hard to respond to the crisis but now are appealing for international aid to address this emergency.
Mercy Corps International, which has been on the ground in Mongolia since February 1999, will be distributing emergency clothing and boots. Nike has donated more than 13,000 pieces of men's, women's and children's clothing from its Pakistan facilities, as well as partial shipping costs. Mercy Corps will also purchase winter boots in Mongolia for immediate distribution.
Mercy Corps International is currently implementing the five-year Gobi Regional Economic Growth Initiative with funding from the US Agency for International Development. In partnership with Associates in Rural Development, Inc., Pact and Land O'Lakes, Mercy Corps' program assists the people of Mongolia's Gobi region to accelerate and sustain market-led economic growth and development. One important component of the program is working with cashmere goat herders to help them develop better quality cashmere and sell it for fair market prices. The program has also recently opened a non-bank financial institution to provide small loans to herders and other business people.