Starvation threatens Mongolian herdsmen

Geneva, March 29, 2000 - Mongolian herdsmen, physically and mentally exhausted from a severe winter that has killed 1.7 million of their livestock, could face starvation unless aid gets to them quickly, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Cross Societies warned today.
"Herdsmen's lives are based on livestock and without animals they have no life," says Urjin Sandag, Director of the Mongolian Red Cross in Dundgobi, one of the provinces worst affected by heavy snowfall, freezing temperatures and the consequent loss of animals.

Nearly 400,000 people have been affected by the worst multiple disaster in Mongolia in 30 years and in response to the scale of it, the International Federation has revised the appeal launched on 22 February up to 4 million Swiss francs.

The animals, which are integral to the herdsmen's diet and way of life, were already undernourished in the approach to winter. A drought last summer led to a shortage of pasture and consequently, winter fodder. Livestock that have so far survived the gruelling winter months are desperately weak. Animals provide the nomadic herdsmen with their main source of food, fuel and transportation, so the continued survival of those that are still living is vital. In the search for pasture to keep their livestock alive, herdsmen are forced to move outside their normal grazing areas, having to leave their families behind.

The role of the Mongolian Red Cross has been crucial in the distribution of relief supplies, especially as volunteers have sometimes travelled hundreds of kilometres to reach desperate families. But immediate needs are huge. The Mongolian Red Cross with help from the International Federation has already provided 3,200 families with supplementary food rations and winter boots to help herdsmen who have lost their horses travel on foot. This latest appeal will help 35,000 people with emergency food rations for a period of 12 months.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:

In Mongolia
Shunichi Kagami, Relief Delegate Tel: (976)-1-321684
Mobile: (976)-99112347

In Beijing
Ros Armitage, Reporting Delegate Tel: (8610) 6522 4784
Mobile: (86)135 0120 5971

In Geneva
Solveig Olafsdottir, Information Officer Tel: (41 22) 730 4296
Mobile: (41 79) 217 3372

In Moscow
Joe Lowry, Information Delegate Tel: (7502) 937 5267
Mob: (70)957 664 625

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