Kazakhstan: Drought - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF Operation n° MDRKZ010


A. Situation analysis

In the Republic of Kazakhstan, the heatwave that began in June 2021 in the Southern and Western regions of the country (Kyzylorda, Mangystau and Turkestan provinces) led to record temperatures1 up to 46.5℃ (recorded on 7 July) in the area with a baseline average of 28.3℃.

This has seriously affected the main livestock farms. According to the local meteorological service "Kazhydromet", the influx of hot and dry air masses from the region of Iran preserves abnormally hot weather on the territory of most of the Republic of Kazakhstan. According to the data provided by the Global Drought Observatory (GDO), a high risk of drought and arid conditions are observed in several regions of the country (Mangystau, Turkestan,
Kyzylorda). (see Map 2)

As a result of the abnormally high air temperature in various country regions, rapid runoff of rivers and reservoirs occurs. As a result, the soil dries up to a depth of 50 cm, which causes a lack of vegetation and natural feed on pastures. Due to the impossibility of grazing livestock, the minimum reserves of feed and water are exhausted, which leads to the mass death of animals. To date, the end of more than 2,000 units of livestock has been recorded in the target regions, and this figure is increasing every day. In addition, crops are also being destroyed by the heat, which can potentially2 lead to a major food crisis in several regions of the country, where cattle are a key object of vital activity due to the geographical and climatic features of the southern and western parts of Kazakhstan. The death of livestock and crops in the three regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Mangistau, Kyzylorda and Turkestan regions, see Picture 2) causes severe damage to the local population since animal husbandry is the only source of income and constitutes a vital activity.

According to statistics, more deaths occur in arid regions. The climate is especially harmful to older people, as it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Some families resort to harmful coping practices, such as cutting and selling the meat of already dead animals, which leads to various diseases. Natural drought is the cause of a sharp reduction in water entering the root system of cultivated crops. At the same time, the ratio between transpiration (evaporation of moisture by the plant) and the inflow of water from the ground changes. The water saturation of plant tissues drops sharply, photosynthesis and carbon balance are disturbed. Rivers and lakes are drying up; there is no drinking water for the livestock. The remaining water sources become polluted, and the population risks not having access to clean drinking water, especially in remote villages. In the example of the Kyzylorda region, the state plans to dig 15 wells for the population who have lost access to safe water. With a slow onset of drought, subsistence farmers are more likely to migrate because they do not have alternative food and income sources, or alternatively face hunger, poverty and an increased risk of mortality. There are no alternative sources of income-generating activities in these regions. Eighty per cent of the population takes out loans to raise livestock; however, with the death of livestock, the population does not have the opportunity to pay off loans and provide their family with basic needs.

The drought has greatly affected the food security of the regions, which leads to cheaper livestock and higher prices for feed, food and drinking water, which are used to ensure the vital activity of the population. Therefore, the possible negative consequences due to the sharp deterioration of the socio-economic situation include the lack of adequate nutrition.

The desiccation of the soil and grass litter also leads to an increased risk of fires. This year alone, more than 1,000 hectares of land caught fire on the territory of the Karaganda region due to drought, which in turn led to the death of 1 person and 200 heads of cattle.

In addition, the rural population is spread out on a sizeable territory with low population density, unsatisfactory road transport, poorly developed communication links, including telecommunications, is negatively affected and is facing constraints to access timely, affordable, qualified and high-quality specialized medical care.

According to the Turkestan branch of the Red Crescent of Kazakhstan, in all seven regions where there was a drought, outpatient care is organized through paramedic visiting teams from nearby district centres, that is, there are no medical organizations in these villages, and assistance is provided by inviting paramedics from the nearest district centres. Also, the Mangystau regional branch confirmed the availability of outpatient care in all towns.

According to residents, at the initial stages of the drought, there were cases when the meat of diseased cattle was used for cooking. As a result, there was an increase in the incidence of acute intestinal infections. Since the abnormal heatwave began relatively recently, there is no information on those who fell ill due to the drought. However, the risk of developing infectious and non-communicable diseases in the villages remains high. Abnormal heat can worsen the health status of people with chronic diseases and older people, the probability of getting heatstroke also remaining high. Even though the local authorities are taking all measures to destroy the products of dead livestock, the use of the meat of a sick animal for food is not excluded.

The situation is complicated because animal breeders have a considerable number of bank loans for breeding livestock, which is currently dying. Accordingly, to compensate for their losses and continue their lives, pastoralists need a free and gratuitous supply of large volumes of feed to preserve the number of the remaining livestock until the end of the drought (end of September). However, despite the measures taken by the state, there is still a shortage of feed in the region. Therefore, on behalf of the President, the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan temporarily restricted the export of feed to support farmers and households suffering from drought.

In the Aral region of the Kyzylorda region, due to drought and acute shortage of feed, a state of emergency was introduced on 14 July. 3 The last time a state of emergency was declared on the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan was in the Kazakh SSR in 1975. The decision to introduce an emergency regime in the Turkestan and Mangistau regions is being considered by the Ministry of Emergency Situations and local executive bodies. In the latter two regions, written requests for assistance were sent from the administration of these regions dated July 19.

As the situation with the spread of COVID-19 worsens, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan predicts a peak in the incidence rate in August 2021, leading to an increase in possible restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the infection. Currently, there is a ban on holding mass events, and there are restrictions on the operation of some retail and non-retail outlets. In addition, a project called "Ashyq" was launched in Kazakhstan, which allows tracking potential contact persons quickly and monitoring compliance with quarantine measures.

In general, the epidemiological situation in the country remains tense with a tendency to worsen; 5,179 new cases of the disease were registered only over the past day. There are 15 regions of Kazakhstan categorized ‘red’, including Almaty and Nur-Sultan.