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Mongolia /East-Asia: Dzud Final report early action - EAP2019MN0001

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The Forecast based Action by the DREF allocated CHF 205,643 to implement early actions to reduce and mitigate the impact of ‘dzud’ in Mongolia. The early actions to be conducted have been pre-agreed with the National Society and are described in the Early Action Protocol [Dzud/Mongolia].


Summary of the Early Action Protocol (EAP)

For many years, Mongolian herders have been fighting against unique disaster called ‘dzud1 ’, a severe winter condition in which large number of livestock perish due to malnutrition or directly from cold. Mongolia has a high elevation, with a cold and dry climate, and is dominated by extreme continental climate with long, cold winters and short summers, during which most precipitation falls. As effects of climate change intensifies year by year, the frequency of severe winter grows and makes it even harder for herders who are already busy competing with harsh climate. Dzud is not only the cause of livestock mortality but it also destroys livelihoods of herders and greatly damages the general economy and society depending on the scope. Most sadly, dzud could be the reason for suicide as when herders find all their livestock which they tended all their life perished overnight, they experience great psychological trauma. Another social issue which follows dzud is a flow of migrants to urban areas. Herding is a way of life for over a fifth of Mongolians, and of symbolic importance to the whole country. But now many herders give up on herding and move to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, for a fixed job salary. Former herders usually settle on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and are lacking of skills other than herding, and they usually end up with low-paying jobs with no social security. Even worse, there are many cases of former herders who moved to the city who became an alcoholic or involved in theft and crimes.

MRCS has been assisting the herders who had been affected by dzud for many years to save livelihoods and relieve the suffering and has been working to improve the means to assist the herders and reduce impacts of dzud. From 2019 winter, with support from IFRC and Climate Centre, MRCS became available to prevent the vulnerable herders from impacts of dzud. Using pre-defined mechanism, the early action protocol (EAP), the scientific trigger, dzud risk map developed by NAMEM, MRCS could allocate humanitarian aid to the high-risk areas before dzud strikes.

On 2 January 2020, dzud risk map was published and 97 soums in 13 provinces were at very high risk, which triggered EAP for Mongolia. The threshold for trigger activation is when dzud risk map indicates 20 per cent coverage of the highest risk level over no less than three provinces. In the dzud risk map published on 2 January, eight provinces had more than 20 per cent of risk in their areas.

As defined in the EAP, MRCS targeted eight provinces (Govi-Altai, Khovd, Arkhangai, Bulgan, Uvurkhangai, Dundgobi, Sukhbaatar, Khentii) and assisted 1,000 vulnerable herder households (4,052 people) in those provinces with unconditional cash grant and livestock nutrition kits. Initial assessments were conducted by Red Cross branches in local areas through visit to herder households in high-risk areas to identify the actual needs. The assessment showed that the herder households had been lacking cash in hand because their source for cash is seasonally available as they sell goat wool in spring. If they are provided with cash, the herders could buy hay and fodder from nearby salesman (for example in province centre). Also, the herders generally had said livestock minerals and vitamins are vital to the herd.

In rural areas, livestock vitamin and minerals are scarce, and livestock are malnourished without the vitamins and minerals. To elaborate, cold-stressed livestock in malnourished condition cannot digest, even if they are fed with hay or fodder. The malnourished livestock must first be supplied with vitamins and minerals to recover their digestive system.

On top of the original two months (January to March 2020) operation timeframe, the MRCS requested for and was granted with a one-month no-cost extension as project evaluation activities were delayed due to a country-wide road closure by the Mongolian government as one of the COVID-19 outbreak prevention measures in Mongolia. This delayed the previous schedule of the final evaluation to access into the targeted areas including defined in the EAP – the MRCS targeted eight provinces (Govi-Altai, Khovd, Arkhangai, Bulgan, Uvurkhangai, Dundgobi, Sukhbaatar and Khentii).