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Mongolia - Extreme Winter Condition (MDRMN005): Preliminary Final Report

Date de publication
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Date of Issue: 31 May 2017

Operation start date: 15 January 2016

Operation end date: 28 February 2017

Description of the disaster   

The Dzud that started in November 2015 has affected 90 percent of the territory and a total of 965,000 people, mostly herders, putting them in isolation and causing a loss of their livestock, food shortage and the collapse of the household economy in remote pockets of the country. Among the affected population were 5,019 pregnant women, 20,874 children under age five, 6,117 people with disability and 4,173 vulnerable households living below the national poverty line. The heavy snowfall disabled livestock from accessing pasture land, and prolonged duration causing injuries and exhaustion, thus leading to 1.1 million livestock death.   

The drought in the summer of 2015 caused insufficient growth of hay affecting the shortage of pasture land for the livestock of the herders who are still living a nomadic life in the affected areas. Herders were not able to have adequate collection of hay due to lack of manpower and cash to prepare for winter, while the livestock did not have enough pasture to graze on during winter. As livestock is the sole income source of the household, witnessing the deterioration and eventual death of their livestock further increased the stress on herder households and their family members who already feel uncertain about their future, and adopt negative coping mechanisms including but not limited to skipping entire days without eating, limiting the portion of meals a day, purchasing food on credit and selling remaining livestock.

Comprehensive assessments in affected provinces conducted by the Mongolian government in late December showed that the serious drought of 2015 summer and autumn greatly reduced grass yields in pastures, which resulted insufficient hay growth for herders to prepare fodder for livestock for the coming winter.

In facing the extreme winter and shortage of hay and fodder, herders started to put more livestock on the market to exchange for cash to buy food, hay and other necessities. Following the rapid market assessment conducted by FAO in fall 2016, the oversupply of livestock on the market has resulted in decreased prices of all commodities drawn from livestock. Since the demand for meat and meat products has remained the same, herders were either unable to sell their livestock or forced to sell at a loss which resulted in acute cash shortage needed to cover immediate household needs. Many herders were forced into debt and bartered their livestock for food items. Thousands of vulnerable families were forced to reduce the amount and variety of their food to reduce household expenditure.
The harsh winter conditions also isolated the herder families who are living in remote areas and blocked their access to the nearest settlements where the essential public services such as medical service, grocery stores, hygiene facilities are located.

By spring, the severe winter situation had eased but the effect of the disaster prolonged, further increasing the death of livestock and their young offspring. By the end of April 2016, a total of 1,039,000 adult livestock had perished as a result of the Dzud. This number had cumulatively increased to 1,236,700 by June 2016. The main contributing factors were insufficient grass in pastures, weakened livestock, severe dust storms and lack of hay and fodder.

Following the Dzud, many herder households lost all their livestock. As they lose their only source of income they are left with no choice but to migrate to the city to seek employment for a living. The displaced herders mostly remain unemployed and are forced to live in extreme poverty.

In July 2016, the revised Emergency Appeal was issued to scale up the ongoing operation and strengthen the longerterm recovery component through approaches aimed at providing herder households with necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to build more diverse livelihoods. Climate change adaptation was taken into consideration during the recovery phase of the operation through awareness raising among the targeted beneficiaries and sharing best practices on climate-smart disaster risk reduction (DRR). This operation allowed MRCS to learn and adopt long-term economic development approaches in support of vulnerable herders.

As of February 2017, Mongolia is currently facing the second consecutive Dzud disaster. The northern parts of the country have been greatly affected by harsh winter conditions. The IFRC is assisting approximately 11,264 people from the 10 most affected provinces through the Emergency Appeal for severe winter condition (MDRMN006).