More than 20,000 families are at the risk of going hungry, as temperatures reaching as low as -50 degrees centrigrade have killed nearly two million head of livestock in Mongolia, the United Nations agriculture agency reported today.
One third of the Asian nation`s population leads nomadic lives and depend entirely on livestock for a living.
Urgent assistance of $6 million is needed over the next two or three months to help herders make it through to spring, a rapid needs assessment conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found.
Locally known as dzud, the extreme cold experienced in Mongolia " roughly the size of Western Europe " followed a very dry and long summer and fall, during which insufficient livestock feed was produced to provide to the animals for the winter months.
If current conditions continue, the Government predicts that losses could reach 3-4 million head of livestock by spring. So far, it is estimated that economic losses have topped $60 million.
Out of Mongolia`s 21 provinces, 14 are considered to have been seriously affected, with tens of thousands of families owning up to 300 head of livestock having lost over half their herds. Their cash income is plummeting and they face soaring fodder prices.
If aid does not reach the country soon, spreading poverty will lead to mass migration to urban areas later this year, FAO warned.
The agency`s Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific has provided 5,000 doses of medicinal food supplements for dairy cows, pregnant heifers and young bulls, and is also prepared to assist in disaster preparedness and risk reduction plans.