As severe winter spreads death and shortages in Mongolia, UN appeals for funds

A herder milks yaks in Must, Khovd Province, Mongolia (file)

12 February 2010 – With weeks of freezing temperatures and heavy snows leaving more than half of Mongolia’s 21 provinces in urgent need of aid, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today appealed for nearly $750,000 to face a crisis that is already seeing youngsters die and threatens scores of thousands more.

“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,” UNICEF country representative Rana Flowers said.

“This is an unfolding emergency. Of most recent and most urgent concern is evidence that babies and young children are dying because they cannot access the medical treatment from trained personnel that they need,” she added, noting that nine children had died in recent days in just one province according to the Health Ministry.

Over 22,000 children in 265 dormitories are in need of urgent aid due to insufficient food and fuel for heating and cooking, and nearly 500 other dormitories with more than 41,000 youngsters will need assistance as severe conditions spread across the vast country of some 3 million people. Some villages only have enough fuel for three or four more days.

UNICEF, which is working with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to gear up a significant and coordinated response, faces a “critical need” for an additional $400,000 for medical supplies, equipment, micronutrients and hygiene kits, and $322,000 to reach a growing number of affected communities with life-saving interventions.

The winter conditions, known as a dzud with temperatures plunging as low as -50 degrees Celsius and now hovering around -40, are likely to continue beyond April. The Government has already declared disaster status in 12 provinces with a further seven predicted to follow as further heavy snow is expected.

While Mongolians are used to cold winters, current conditions have been compounded by a severe summer drought, when little fodder was generated, killing more than 2 million livestock in a country where 35 to 40 per cent of the population rely on herding and agriculture


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