UN urges 18 million dollars aid for Mongolia's severe cold

12th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN warned on Wednesday that a drought which has devastated Mongolia during one of the worst winters for decades could continue for another year, as it appealed for 18.1 million dollars in aid.

UN interim humanitarian coordinator Rana Flowers said the aid appeal presented to donors in Geneva would assist nearly 800,000 Mongolians, mainly herders and their families who have lost the livestock they depend on their survival.

The impoverished landlocked nation is still grappling with a severe winter after a dry summer, a combination known locally as "dzud".

Fifteen of the country's 21 provinces have declared a state of disaster and another four are on the brink of doing so as the extreme cold and lack of rain continues well into spring, Flowers said.

"At this point in time we are considering that we're at the end of the beginning of the dzud," she told journalists.

"We are predicting that the dzud will continue until this time next year."

The last major "dzud" occurred over three straight winters at the beginning of the 2000s, and tens of thousands of herders who lost everything moved to the capital Ulan Bator in search of work.

However, some 8.1 million livestock -- 18 percent of the country's total -- have died so far in the latest episode, about twice as many as recorded over a similar period during the most severe dzud, Flowers said.

Meanwhile infant mortality increased by 35 to 40 percent in the affected areas over the winter, and by 60 percent in one province, according to the United Nations.

Herding is a backbone of livelihoods for 30 percent of the population, and also provides food and energy from animal dung fires for families who live on the Mongolian steppe.

Flowers emphasised that the extent and duration of the cold was exceptional, with animals used to sharp winters unable to reach beneath the deep frozen snow.

"It really is an example of climate change at work," she claimed.

In late March the international Red Cross launched an appeal for 935,000 dollars, accounting for 4.5 million dead livestock at the time.

Unemployment soared as destitute herders headed for the capital in the wake of the previous dzud. Aid agencies fear thousands more migrants could follow in the aftermath of the current disaster.

© 2010 AFP

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