An extremely harsh winter risks pushing almost 200,000 people into hunger and deeper poverty in Mongolia, the United Nations warns. Temperatures have fallen below -40C across most of the central Asian country where normal winter temperatures are around -15 to -35C. More than one million cattle have already died, the National Emergency Management Agency said. To make things worse, food stocks are running out after a summer drought. "It's an unfolding situation which is predicted to worsen over time," said Rana Flowers, the United Nations warned organisation's resident coordinator in Mongolia. "The focus at the moment is on the livelihood issue."
About 40 per cent of the country's workforce herds livestock, according to the BBC, so thousands of families’ livelihoods are at risk. "At this point in time, the government is looking at seven of the provinces in which there are 52 villages that are considered to be in disaster and in those we're counting about 177,000 people, including 72,000 children," Ms Flowers said on Tuesday. As much as 90 per cent of the country is covered with snow, after heavy blizzards, the country’s UB Post newspaper reported this week. Livestock in the worst hit western areas are running out of food and many have died of cold, hunger, or illness. Since last week, more than a million livestock have frozen to death because of the severe cold wave ravaging 19 of the country’s 21 provinces, the State Emergency Commission said.
Mongolia’s government has made a world-wide appeal to help the country overcome the continuing disaster, and is asking for food, medicines, heating supplies, warm clothing and funding to buy and deliver feed for livestock. United Nations teams in Mongolia are worried about the poor, particularly those living in the worst-affected villages. "The poor did not have the resources to stockpile food or fuel for heating and the supplies in the now inaccessible villages as a whole are stretched," Ms Flowers said. Heavy snow has frozen into solid ice making the ground impossible to travel on, cutting off pregnant women and the ill from health care, which is a serious worry, because the H1N1 flu has broken out in the country. "We have a population that anyway has a chronic disease burden," Flowers said, adding that tuberculosis and hepatitis are widespread. In 2001, a similar combination of a summer drought followed by a winter freeze triggered a rise in malnutrition and infections in children and pregnant women, the United Nations said.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children