UN cash-for-work scheme to help Mongolian herders amid livestock disaster

A boy brings dead sheep to the pile of carcasses in Southgobi aimag, Mongolia.

25 February 2010 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is developing a cash-for-work programme in Mongolia under which herders will earn income to clear and bury the carcasses of the over 2 million livestock that have perished nationwide amid a particularly harsh winter.

Locally known as dzud, the extreme cold and heavy snow experienced in Mongolia – with temperatures dipping as low as -50 degrees Celsius – followed a very dry and long summer and fall, during which insufficient livestock feed was produced to provide to the animals for the winter months.

More than 2.7 million livestock have perished across the country from the cold, with another 3 million at risk of death by the end of the cold season in June, and their carcasses remain in the fields. As UNDP noted in a news release, the dead carcasses, if not disposed of properly, pose threats to the spread of diseases, infections and soil pollution.

The initiative will not only help to reduce health risks for people but also provide income for herders whose livelihoods have been devastated with the death of their livestock, in a country where one third of the population rely on herding and agriculture.

“While immediate needs of food, shelter, heating and health care must be met, this approach would prevent the spread of diseases and also help herders to feed their families during the dzud,” said Akbar Usmani, Acting UNDP Resident Representative in Mongolia.

“Livestock is the cornerstone of existence for so many Mongolians and many people have lost all their direct income and food source,” he added.

UNDP noted that one-third of Mongolia’s population already lives below the poverty line, a figure that is expected to rise due to the massive loss of goats, sheep, horses, camels, cows and yaks.

The cash-for-work project aims to reach 60,000 herders, with special emphasis on those with fewer than 200 animals who have been particularly adversely affected. UNDP has already contributed $300,000 towards the $4 million requested by the Government for removing the carcasses.

UNDP is also supporting national authorities in developing an early recovery plan for the country, focusing on restoring livelihoods and strengthening disaster preparedness.


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Extreme cold triggers livestock disaster in Mongolia – UN

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