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March 15, 2010
Mongolia faces climate-driven humanitarian crisis

In one of the most sparsely populated regions of the world, the hardy inhabitants are fighting for survival.

Mongolia’s three million people and forty million animals are now being tested by a brutal winter that followed a drought last summer.

Tony Birtley of Al Jazeera English reports how grazing, the backbone of the country’s economy, is under threat.

Mongolia battles severe weather yearly, but this year, the UB Post reports that Mongolia is experiencing a “dzud,” which is a summer drought followed by an even harsher winter”

Before this winter (2009-2010), Mongolia had not experienced a dzud since early 2002. This winter, Mongolia is experiencing unusually cold weather with temperatures dropping well below minus 20 [-4 Fahrenheit] as early as mid-December. It is expected temperatures will fall to minus 48 [-54 Fahrenheit] as northerly weather brings bitter snow storms from Siberia.

Roughly 47% of Mongolia’s 2.7 million people rely heavily on herding livestock. A blog from the World Bank reports:

Around 35 percent of Mongolia’s work force is dependent on herding for a substantial part of their livelihoods and about 63 percent of rural household’s assets are livestock; livestock herding accounts for about a third of employment in Mongolia. Food security is also worsening, poverty levels are likely to rise and these factors may cause an increase in rural-to-urban migration. Compounding the problem is the poor condition of many pastures as a result of last year’s drought and overgrazing. In addition heavy snowfall started earlier than usual in October 2009.

According to AFP:

More than 3.5 million animals — cows, sheep, goats, yaks, horses and camels — have died so far, with 60 percent of the country still buried under deep snow.

Hundreds of thousands of livestock have perished due to lack of nourishment because the winter weather has made the ground infertile. Dead livestock in the region poses a potential threat for disease and has already directly impacted the economic and physical conditions of the Mongolian nomadic peoples.

The United Nations recently launched a campaign to provide funding to clear out dead livestock. In an effort to boost economic livelihood as well as to avoid further disaster, The Guardian reports that many Mongolian nomads are being paid to clear out the dead livestock in the affected regions.

The United Nations has launched a $4 million dollar carcass-clearing appeal for Mongolia as millions of camels, goats, yaks and horses perish across the steppe from a climate double whammy of summer drought and winter snow.

The international body will pay nomads to collect and bury dead livestock to ease the risks of disease, soil contamination and a worsening humanitarian disaster in a nation where one-third of the 2.7m population depends on animal husbandry.

As an initial step, [the United Nations Development Programme] has allocated $300,000 and will raise more fund to pay herders $4 a day to clean and bury carcasses. Eventually, it hopes to reach 60,000 of the worst affected families.

– Stephanie Savage




Are there any agencies we can assist in helping these people with their livestock? I’m thing maybe Heifer Intl.


this has been covered quite a bit by the BBC… That’s why I was here looking for more info,I find the judgemental tone a little odd… these people are living on the edge of what is possible, always have, they use very little of the earths resources compared to most of us and maybe their lifestyle would be more sustainable if they were given supportive advice and the rest of us stopped our rampant consumption whch contributes rather more to messing up the planet IMHO….


Is this another symptom of too many people living in too small or an area ?
Our popultion is pushing eco systems to the brink of collapes.


In certain societies wealth is measure by how many wives, children, dogs, camels, goats you have. Goats are the real problem in a society since their habits of pulling up the whole plant roots and all to eat. They will eat everything. A problem is with the number of livestock that each family has and they are trying to live a lifestyle from the centuries of the past and it is turning their country into a wasteland. To many animals overgrazing the land, to many people being born each wanting to also have large herds. The overgrazing of the land has done another thing the top soil can blow away and it is. The real solution is to limited herd size and family size. Consider who rules the country it would not be very hard to simple go into the areas that risk turning tio a dust bowel and fore moverment of the people and the herds off the land for a few years so that nature can bring back plant growth.


Only one comment? It seems that this subject is one that many folks would want to “yak” about.


Only Worldfocus would bring its viewers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Mongolians. No other news programs would even consider airing this. Their idea of news is to cover the antics of inane, overpaid showbiz ‘celebrities’.

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