Sheep try to find grass under the snow in Mongolia

Mongolian animals are suffering at the hands of an extreme winter


Disaster Operations Manager Steven Clegg speaks about Mongolian animals' desperation as they try to make it through an incredibly harsh winter known as a dzud

And it’s more than just a cold spell: this is a slow and silent disaster that can potentially affect millions of animals, as a previous dzud did in 2010. I deployed to last month to assess the impact.

It was a late afternoon when we arrived at the home of Mr Naraov Bayar, a traditional nomadic herder. The sun was hanging on the horizon and provided no comfort from the cold and biting wind. I could immediately see animals huddled together for their own survival.

During the day Naraov brings his stronger animals out to graze. I see sores and injuries on the faces and legs of animals from trying to break through the crusted snow to find what meager grass lies beneath. Naraov’s father and children have returned from their usual base in the city to help care for the animals: they collect whatever grass they can find by hand to help improve the animals’ chance of survival.

Animals are an integral part of their lives

The two youngest children in Naraov’s family seemed surprisingly comfortable working outside in the bitter cold. They were very attentive as they tended to the weaker and youngest animals of their herd. It was clear how much these animals were part of their family, and how much care and concern they have for them.



Naraov's children play with some of their animals and put blankets on them

Naraov and his family are losing animals to the bitter winter conditions almost daily. Everything in their lives is directly tied to their animals: their food, clothing, money to buy basic necessities, companionship, and transportation. Without their animals Naraov doesn’t know how they would survive.

Millions are suffering right now

Goats, sheep, cattle, horses, and even herds of camels are all at risk. The most difficult times are yet to come as the birthing season begins in spring when mothers and their young are at their weakest and most vulnerable.

We’re providing emergency shelter

This deployment allowed me to understand their needs. We are helping the most vulnerable animals by providing immediate emergency sheltering materials. This will give the herders a safer place to protect their animals from biting winds and preserve heat during the cold nights. And it will give animals the best chance at survival until they can move to summer grazing areas.

I will be back in Mongolia in a few weeks to visit more families to see how they are coping with the situation. We are working with the Mongolian government and will continue to do so in our mutual effort to protect animals from suffering during extreme Mongolian winter months.

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