A nomadic woman at a temporary camp in Dundgovi province, Mongolia. Many nomadic herding families have gathered together to help each other through this year's dzud.

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia — Dead sheep, goats, horses and cattle are strewn throughout a barren and snowy landscape on Mongolia's remote steppes. For the nomadic herdsmen and women who inhabit this unforgiving land, the level of death and destruction is not normal. According to the Mongolian government, an estimated 4.5 million animals have been lost nationwide — a huge blow to the herding community that makes up a large part of the country’s population. All this comes as a result of the "dzud," a Mongolian term for a summer of drought followed by an extremely cold winter. With record snowfalls and temperatures that dipped to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 59 Farenheit), this year’s dzud is the worst in decades. Limited food supplies and overgrazing are further compounding the massive livestock loss. Officials worry about an increase in crime, begging and prostitution, as desperate herding families who are unable to find other forms of employment move to the country’s cities and villages.

  • A nomadic herdswoman and her livestock after a winter's storm in Arkhangai province, Mongolia. The dzud, or extreme weather, experienced in Mongolia this year has been the most severe in three decades and has caused massive livestock losses for many of Mongolia's nomadic herdsmen.
  • A late winter storm in Mongolia's Arkhangai province.
  • A cow kept warm by a quilt in Dundgovi province, Mongolia.
  • A herdswoman and her livestock in Dundgovi province, Mongolia. Many of Mongolia's herding families have struggled through this year's dzud.
  • Livestock carcasses piled up in Dundgovi province, Mongolia.
  • A herdsman drags away carcasses in Dundgovi province, Mongolia.
  • A herdsman feeding his livestock in Dundgovi province, Mongolia. Many livestock have died from starvation during this year's dzud.
  • A herdswoman and newborn kids in Arkhangai province.
  • Men stand before dead animals in Dundgovi province, Mongolia.
  • A herdswoman and her dog in Dundgovi province, Mongolia. The province has struggled to provide enough grass and other food to feed the livestock.
  • Herdsmen dig a temporary holding shelter for livestock.
  • A nomadic herding family in a yurt in Dundgovi province, Mongolia. As a result of the dzud, many of Mongolia's herding families are pushed toward economic destitution, creating the potential for a humanitarian disaster.
  • A girl in a yurt, Dundgovi province, Mongolia.
  • A herdsmen and his sheep in Dundgovi province, Mongolia.
  • A nomadic woman at a temporary camp in Dundgovi province, Mongolia. Many nomadic herding families have gathered together to help each other through this year's dzud.

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