Food shortages threaten 25 percent of people in Mongolia


The worst winter weather in 30 years in Mongolia has reportedly killed several hundred thousand livestock. This is seriously threatening the livelihoods and food security of the quarter of the country's 2.7 million people who depend entirely on animal rearing.

Official reports indicate that as many as 1.5 million livestock have already died and many more are likely to be lost in the coming weeks as harsh conditions persist. The worst-affected areas are in central, western and north-western parts of the country. Areas that have been particularly hard hit include Dundgobi, Ovorkhangai, Uvs, Zavkhanto and Bayankhongor.

The livestock sector plays an extremely important part in the Mongolian economy, providing the main source of household income for many and contributing a major source of foreign exchange. In addition, given vast distances and the lack of access to alternative food sources, animals also play a vital role in household food security, providing essential nutritional needs through meat and milk. Available estimates indicate that normally animals provide around 92 kg of meat and 130 kg of milk-products per person annually.

The food situation amongst vulnerable groups, including women and children could deteriorate appreciably in the next few months, particularly as essential winter food reserves of dried meat, milk and dairy products become depleted. Already there is evidence that the most vulnerable sectors of the nomadic population are migrating to towns in search of employment.

The Government of Mongolia has appealed for international assistance, including food, clothes and medicines, as well as fodder for the surviving livestock.

14 March 2000

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