Mongolia

Mongolia winter kills people, herds - worse expected

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ULAN BATOR, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Mongolia's fourth successive savage winter is beginning to take a heavy toll on vital livestock and worse is to come, officials said on Thursday.

"Conditions are rapidly worsening with more blizzards forecast," said senior civil defence official Togoo, who, like many Mongolians, uses only one name.

Since the end of December, blizzards have killed four people and 80,000 head of livestock have died of starvation and extreme cold as snow blanketed land on which they would graze in a normal winter, officials said .

They said 10 of Mongolia's 21 provinces had been declared disaster areas and they feared up to 2.5 million animals tended by nomadic herders, who form about one third of the country's 2.4 million population, could die this winter.

The International Red Cross said on Monday 655,000 people were severely affected by the harsh winter and launched an appeal for $2.85 million in emergency aid for 16,500 people in the worst-hit areas.

"People in the affected areas are in shock because even 75-year-old grandmothers have never seen anything like this," Togoo told Reuters.

By the end of December, Mongolia had lost a third of its livestock -- more than 11.2 million cattle, horses, camels, yaks, sheep and goats -- in the past four years of summer droughts and unusually harsh winters.

"We expect at least another hundred days of disaster conditions and 70 to 80 percent losses of cattle in our county," said Dashtseden, the top official of badly affected Buregkhangai county in northern Bulgan province.

"This will really have a heavy impact on our county's people and economy," he said. "Already many people are experiencing a great shortages of supplies."

Thousands of herders who lost their livestock have been forced to move to the cities to join the ranks of the jobless with the national unemployment rate already above 17.5 percent.

Nomadic herders depend on animals for food, heating, transport and cash.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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