Page last updated at 06:01 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 07:01 UK

Appeal for Mongolian herders after cold kills livestock

Snowstorm in Mongolia
Mongolia has been hit by unusually severe winter weather

The International Red Cross has appealed for help for thousands of Mongolian herders who have lost their livestock because of extreme cold.

The Red Cross said that millions of animals had perished during the country's hardest winter in years.

It says it needs over $900,000 (£603,000) to provide emergency assistance to the worst-hit families and restock herds.

A BBC correspondent says those animals who survived are running out of food.

In recent months temperatures in Mongolia have dropped below -40C.

Local residents call it a "dzud" - a severe winter following a very dry summer, which has left reserves of fodder low.

Almost half of the country's population are herders or farmers whose main assets are their livestock.

Herder couple in Mongolia in March 2010

According to the Red Cross, nearly 10% of Mongolia's livestock have died since December.

The agency said it needed money to provide emergency food aid to more than 3,000 families who have lost the bulk of their herds and to help them restore or diversify their livelihoods.

"The needs are steadily growing as more and more herders face up to the reality that many of their animals are dying," Ravdan Samdandobji, secretary-general of the Mongolian Red Cross, said in the statement.

"More and more people are left distraught and increasingly destitute."

The BBC's Chris Hogg, who is in Mongolia, says the weather is not expected to improve until mid May and herders say they expect the next few weeks to be the toughest yet this winter.

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