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Devastating Winter Hits Herders
Mongolian herders were hit hard in early 2001 by the second consecutive "dzud," or exceptionally cold and dry winter. Many heads of livestock, a dietary staple, were lost due to lack of grazing grounds, with adverse effects on the nutrition of the population. MSF, which began working in Mongolia in 1999, responded to this crisis even as it wound up its two-year program of education on HIV/AIDS.
MSF supported some 30,000 people in the Bayan Olgiy province after much of their livestock died due to the "dzud." MSF purchased 321 metric tons of wheat flour to distribute to struggling families. Feldchers (medical personnel with status between doctor and nurse) were affected by the winter as well. Traveling through the rough terrain became impossible with the deaths of their horses. MSF bought 33 horses to allow feldchers to continue their work. This program lasted for a few months in early 2001.
The devastation of AIDS has not yet reached Mongolia, but the rise of syphilis and gonorrhea has raised concerns that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a threat. MSF helped set up information centers in the capitol of Ulan Bator to provide information on HIV/AIDS and other STDs to health professionals. MSF also trained 12 doctors and over 200 health care workers from across Mongolia on pre- and post-HIV counseling. In addition, MSF implemented two countrywide mass media campaigns on safe sex, targeting Mongolian youth. All program activities were turned over to national counterparts.