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Harsh winter brings feed shortages in Mongolia

Published on 31 March, 2010, Last updated at 02:54 GMT
Harsh winter brings feed shortages in Mongolia

The Red Cross has issued an urgent appeal for aid to help thousands of farmers and herders left destitute by one of the worst winters in decades.

The freezing conditions followed a dry summer, which had left farmers dangerously short of animal feed as winter got underway.

At least four million animals have died in the heavy snow and blizzards, around 10 per cent of Mongolia's livestock population.

Francis Markus, regional spokesman International Federation of the Red Cross, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program the situation in Mongolia is a "slowly unfolding disaster".

"It's extremely serious, especially for those farmers, those herders who are mostly among the poorest segments of the population, who have now lost all their animals, which represents of course all their assets," he said.

"[It's] a huge blow to their way of life, meaning that they will be plunged into a form of life without their animals, that is totally new to them and very, very daunting."

The Red Cross is calling for nearly a million dollars in aid, to supply immediate assistance in the form of basic foods, as well as counselling over the loss of herds and opportunities to develop alternative ways of generating income.

Mr Markus says there have been difficulties in reaching some of the more remote communities, and there are fears the end of winter could also bring a new set of problems.

"There are potential health hazards from the carcasses, obviously animal diseases could be spread and one can even envisage water sources being polluted," he said.

"So that's an area where people will be kind of making sure that as soon as it's feasible, that those carcasses are burned and disposed of in a safe way. But it's a very grim reminder of the extent of the disaster to find at the moment, skeletons and heads of sheep and goat in the snow wherever you go in the countryside."


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