Mongolia has been going through a “dzud,” an extremely cold winter following a summer drought. According to the Mongolian government, an estimated 4.5 million animals have died across the country in the last few months, a huge blow to the herding community that makes up a large part of the population.
A nomadic herdswoman in remote part of Mongolia suffering worst winter cold and snow in decades. Photo by Sheila Zhao, GlobalPost
Record snowfalls and temperatures plummeted to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 59 Farenheit), making this the worst dzud in decades.
Herding communities depend on livestock for 90% of their income and officials worry an increase in crime, begging and prostitution may result, as desperate herding families, unable to find alternatives, seek to feed themselves and their families.
In the southern part of Mongolia, snow leopard region, the “dzud” may also encourage snow leopard poaching, despite recent years of successful community collaboration projects with organisations like the Snow Leopard Trust, protecting the endangered cats.
The government and UNICEF have appealed to the local and international community for urgent support to reach the herders with fodder, fuel, medicines, food and warm clothing.
Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Mongolia said recently, “The UN is acutely aware of the need to reach increasingly isolated populations with fuel and medicines, to get those in need out to trained medical care and to provide hygiene kits to stem the spread of disease, to ensure safe delivery and newborn care and to prevent the deepening of chronic malnutrition in this country.”
UNICEF says it faces a critical need for an additional USD 400,000 for medical supplies, equipment, micronutrients, and hygiene interventions as well as $322,000 to reach the growing number of affected communities with other life saving interventions.
The Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) has established a relief fund to help families through this crisis. An SLT partner, the Snow Leopard Trust UK, is giving $12,000 raised by Snow Leopard Vodka for aid like hay for remaining livestock. ‘Good on you’ to the folks at Snow Leopard Vodka!
If you’d like to support this effort to help the herding communities of Mongolia at this critical time you can do so through the Snow Leopard Trust here.