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Sixteen million livestock set to perish in Mongolia’s “dzud”

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As many as 16 million head of livestock could perish in Mongolia’s “dzud” crisis. 

The astonishing figure, equivalent to around one-quarter of the animals herded in the country by the end of last year, is the latest forecast death toll for cattle, goats, horses and other animals which will be lost to the harshest extreme winter weather the country has experienced in nearly half a century.

The forecast was relayed by Member of Parliament Togtokhsuren Dulamdorj, who said on March 20, “A group of MPs listened to information from Deputy Prime Minister Amarsaikhan Sainbuyan about urgent measures needed to solve problems with the mass death of livestock as a result of dzud. There is a preliminary forecast around 16 million animals will die.”

Heart-wrenching loss

Earlier this week, Mongolia’s Emergency Operation Center said the number of lost livestock in the weather disaster had exceeded 4.7 million. The center predicted an impact greater than the significant 2010 “dzud” event, which resulted in the loss of 10.3 million livestock and affected 28 percent of Mongolia’s population.

On March 20, CBC News Canada reported Olga Dzhumaeva, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross’ East Asia delegation, as saying on a tour of dzud-stricken localities, “We were confronted with heart-wrenching scenes – piles of dead animals scattered across the snowy and icy steppes. Devastation. That’s the word I can use.”

She added, “We see the scale of this crisis worsens. So this is the period where we’ll see the greatest risk of livestock losses, and humanitarian needs continue to escalate. Now they’re coming out of this harsh winter, and the moment they come out of winter, they’ll have to start preparing for the next winter again.”

The extreme weather, with temperatures dropping to negative 30 Celsius – negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit – has covered livestock grazing areas with deep snow and ice and has impacted around three in four of all herder households, according to officials. The livelihoods of herders who depend on cattle, goats and horses are under severe threat.

Humanitarian response

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an appeal for donations.

“As one of the most active humanitarian actors in the country, the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) is working tirelessly to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected people together with partners in this difficult time. We are grateful the IFRC has always been with us, supporting our humanitarian efforts through the years,” said Bolormaa Nordov, secretary general of the MRCS.

“With this emergency appeal, we hope to minimize the impact of the dzud emergency and support households with longer-term solutions for their lives and livelihoods,” Nordov added.

MRCS is dealing with food scarcity, lack of healthcare access and livelihood destruction in its response to the dzud crisis. Herder families with small children are a particular concern.

The humanitarian response has included the distribution of vital supplies such as warm animal blankets, benefitting 5,100 herder families in urgent need.

“We stand witness to the numerous struggles many herder households face from the loss of their precious livestock to the burdens of financial hardship, limited resources, as well as immense pressures on people’s mental and physical health,” added Dzhumaeva.

“Yet, we see the unwavering hope and resilience of so many families as they battle winter’s wrath with incredible strength. The ongoing livestock deaths, diminishing resources and deteriorating conditions of hundreds of thousands of people in Mongolia this winter is a stark reminder of the urgent need for assistance,” Dzhumaeva concluded. 

bne IntelliNews is a business media company which focuses on emerging markets and business news from Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Middle East and Africa. This article was originally published in bne IntelliNews on March 21.

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