Story on KSL.com
By Jennifer Stagg
SALT LAKE CITY -- Like many parts of the world, people in Mongolia are experiencing a heavy winter. But in a country where much of the population lives in remote areas as livestock herders, this is more than some extra snow -- it's become life or death. Though the country is used to extreme winters, this one has been devastating.
"They say it's the worst they've had in 30 years," Richard Lasson says.
Lasson and his wife are serving a humanitarian mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mongolia. The country is having a weather phenomenon known by locals as a "dzud" -- a summer drought followed by a terrible winter with heavy snow.
"They went into the winter unprepared because they weren't able to have enough hay stocked up for their animals, and then the animals weren't that fat because they didn't have that much food in the summer time; and so now they've got a real severe winter; and so a lot of the country is covered with heavy snow, and they've had temperatures as low as 58 degrees below zero," Lasson says.
Nearly 40 percent of Mongolia's population is livestock herders, and close to 2.7 million livestock animals have died so far. Analysts predict another 3 million to 4 million animals could die before the end of the year. The snow has also made getting medical attention to those in need nearly impossible. "These people are losing their livelihood, and they've had several pregnant mothers pass away. They've had children, babies -- they cannot get to hospital help when they need it," Lasson says.
West Jordan resident Garrett Wilson served an LDS Mission in Mongolia, and his wife is Mongolian.
"Mongolia is just such a poor place that when they have an event like this happen, it's something that they can't really help themselves out of," Wilson says. Wilson's wife has family still living there. He says the people rely heavily on foreign aid in disasters, and the worst of this one may be yet to come.
"They have all of these dead carcasses lying around, that are frozen right now, but when the weather starts to warm up, those carcasses will start to rot; so that's going to be a big problem," Lasson says. There are still several more months of winter left in Mongolia. When it does start to get warmer, there could be outbreaks of disease from the dead animals, and also flooding.
Friday, the LDS Church released a statement to KSL News about the situation in Mongolia. It reads: "In response to severe winter weather in Mongolia the Church is partnering with Mongolian officials to distribute food, clothing, medicine, candles, fuel, and hygiene items to herder families and is providing funding to repair broken heating systems in school dormitories."
If you would like to help the people in Mongolia, Lasson suggests donating to the LDS Church's Humanitarian Fund, UNICEF or The American Red Cross and specify you want the funds to go to Mongolia.
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