Red Cross assists Mongolian herders as severe winter conditions continue

Red Cross food distributions got underway today to assist some of the most vulnerable Mongolian herder families hit by a fourth consecutive winter disaster. The dzud, as it is called in Mongolia, has followed severe summer droughts. Since 2000, it has killed more than six million livestock upon which herders depend for existence.
This winter has again left impoverished herders on the edge of starvation. More than 665,000 people in 17 of Mongolia's 21 provinces are affected by the dzud but Bulgan and Khuvsgul provinces have suffered the most from the repeated cycle of extreme winter conditions following bad summer droughts.

Nearly 900 families in the two provinces of Bulgan and Khuvsgul, will be reached on the first day of the distribution of wheat flour, which has become core to the survival of destitute herders.

"In some areas, people are only eating one meal per day. Meat, which is the basis of the Mongolian diet, has become rare, if available at all. For many, the provision of wheat flour is the only survival strategy. For others, the flour will preserve their already modest household income for priority expenditures, such as medicine, fuel and fodder for their hungry livestock," said Samdan Dodje, secretary general of the Mongolian Red Cross.

Temperatures as low as minus 36 degrees Celcius and very heavy snowfalls since early November, have taken their toll on both humans and livestock. Frostbite, respiratory sickness and physical and mental exhaustion from the effort of trying to keep animals alive, are on the increase. In Bulgan province alone, more than 31,600 animals are reported to have died since the beginning of the winter. An estimated 2.5 million animals are expected to perish in this cycle. The next three to four months will be critical as the herders will somehow have to feed their livestock until the new grass starts to grow.

The food distributions today kick-start a Mongolian Red Cross relief operation supported by the International Federation, which launched an appeal for US$ 2.8 million in January.

Funds are needed to assist 115,000 people through winter and spring with supplementary food, warm clothing for children and boots for adult herders so they can continue herding on foot if their horses die.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Beijing:

France Hurtubise, Regional Information Delegate - Tel: +8610 65 327 162 ext 18 / +8613 50 12 05 972

In Geneva:

Jemini Pandya, Press Officer - Tel: +41 22 730 45 70 / + 41 79 217 33 74

The Geneva-based International Federation promotes the humanitarian activities of 178 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies among vulnerable people. By coordinating international disaster relief and encouraging development support, it seeks to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The Federation, National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together, constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.