OT? - Winter's bite hits cities in Mongolia

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Winter's bite hits cities in Mongolia
Thursday 30 March 2000

The impact of Mongolia's harshest winter in 30 years is spreading from the countryside to cities, where high food prices are likely to squeeze already tight urban incomes, Government officials say.

Herders who have already lost more than 1.8 million head of livestock now face a battle to save newborn animals in the March-April birthing season on grasslands stripped bare by a punishing winter, which followed the worst drought in 60 years.

The worst-hit provinces of Oevorkhangai and Central Gobi, which provide most of the capital Ulan Bator's meat supplies, have lost more than 850,000 head of cattle, officials say.

"The rise of expenditure spent in food products will be felt in people's net income, and will have an impact in people's standard of living in cities," said the Oevorkhangai Governor, Mr Batmoenkh.

Mr Batmoenkh said the economic losses from livestock deaths in Oevorkhangai were equivalent to two-and-a-half times the province's annual budget.

"For our poverty-stricken Mongolia, we can't call this anything else but a disaster," he said.

Mongolia appealed for international aid last month after blizzards buried pastures that fed the livestock on which one-third of Mongolia's 2.4 million people depended. The summer drought cut the hay crop, which was stored to supplement winter fodder.

The UN has said more then 500,000 people have been directly affected and hunger would hit people in many areas for the next 12 months.

Although the coldest season is over, sandstorms and high winds are expected in the next two months and hundreds of thousands more livestock in Oevorkhangai alone may die before new grass begins to grow in late May or June, local officials say.

"If they had another severe snowstorm over this period, there would be significant losses, not only in adult sheep and goats and cattle, but also the new-born," said an agricultural economist, Mr Roger Lough, who is conducting a study in Oevorkhangai for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Some fodder aid is being provided to the worst-hit areas, but aid workers are appealing for more funds and supplies.

"These animals are starving to death, that's why they are dying like they are," said a veterinarian, Mr Paul Kline, who is monitoring distribution of UN aid.

"The cold is the factor but they just don't have the fat or the body weight to survive. There's a lot that could be done if we are able to intervene quickly enough," Mr Kline said.

In a worst-case scenario, if 25 to 50per cent of remaining animals died in the next two months, then people in some areas would not have enough to eat, Mr Kline said.


Posted to remind everyone that others do it pretty tough...

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), March 29, 2000


Thanks Peit'

Your news blurbs are s valuable addition to the daily reading.

Keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 31, 2000.

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