The arrival of summer is prompting nomadic herders in Mongolia to come to terms with this past winter’s devastation, which left may without animals or income. For thousands, there is no alternative than migration to cities.
The disastrously long and cold winter, known in Mongolia as a dzud, killed eight million animals - 18 percent of the nation’s livestock - in a country where a third of the population depends on herding for a living, according to the United Nations. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archive.]
As of mid-May, over 32,700 families had lost at least half of their animals, including 8,711 households left without any livestock at all, the UN said in an inter-agency appeal to respond to the dzud.
For many of these hardest-hit families, summer’s respite comes with serious questions about what to do next. “For those who have less than 100 [head of] livestock, it is quite difficult to continue,” says Purev Ongonsar, a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) program officer for disaster management.
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Andrew Cullen is a freelance journalist based in Hovd, Mongolia.