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Dead sheep and goats in Bayanmunkh in Mongolia's Khentii province

Photo: Byambasuren Byamba-Ochir / AFP

In Mongolia, extreme cold and snowfall have caused severe economic losses to herders.

According to the State Emergency Commission, more than 1.5 million herd animals have already died in the Central Asian country this winter.

“Dzud” is what the Mongolians call the snow and ice disasters that repeatedly hit the country in the winter months.

The weather phenomenon means that the cattle can no longer find food because the ground is frozen or the pastures are covered by snow.

The losses are often particularly high if there was a dry summer in which the animals were unable to build up sufficient fat reserves for the winter.

The United Nations has also already warned about the situation.

Livestock is an integral part of Mongolia's economy, culture and way of life, according to a UN report published two weeks ago.

Now the herders are struggling with a lack of feed and skyrocketing feed prices.

It is estimated that there are around 64 million herd animals in Mongolia.

For Mongolia it is already the second “Dzud” winter in a row.

The cold also has serious consequences for local people.

Children, for example, sometimes have no access to vital health care when roads are blocked by heavy snowfall, it goes on to say.

Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Mongolia affected by the cold wave after his Sunday Angelus prayer in front of pilgrims and believers in St. Peter's Square in Rome.

“This extreme phenomenon is also a sign of climate change and its effects,” said the head of the Catholic Church.

The “climate crisis” is a global social problem and primarily affects the most vulnerable.

Francis only visited Mongolia last September, where very few Catholics live.