Briefing on the "Zud" situation in Mongolia

Originally published
One. The Loss during the drought and zud in 1999/2000

In 1999/2000 Mongolian herders experienced their worst winter for 30 years. This disaster, called Dzud in Mongolian, was the result of the unusually dry weather in summer 1999 compounded by the particularly harsh weather experienced since the beginning of the winter. The snow began earlier than expected and fell without respite. Temperatures have dropped to subnormal levels (minus 46 degrees centigrade in some areas).

Other factors have contributed to the scale and severity of the disaster. Overstocking and overgrazing around settlements and few water points available has lead to environmental degradation and the disappearance of previously abundant grasses and inadequate hay preparation in the autumn and are leading to reduced animal fat reserves. Virtually non-existent veterinary services have lead to declining health conditions amongst herds.

According to the State Emergency Commission, 4 persons died during the 1999/2000 zud and the number of dead animals in the affected aimags (provinces) reached approximately 2.4 million. 1.1 million people lived in the 13 affected aimags, representing 45% of the population of Mongolia. Of this population, more than 400,000 people were directly or indirectly affected by the zud. According to the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the 1999/2000 zud caused damage estimated at Tug 85.9 billion (approx. USD 78.3 million). 2,369 herding families have lost their entire livestock.

In February 2000, the Government requested international assistance and on 3 April the UN launched its Inter-Agency Appeal for Mongolia. The appeal, based on two assessment missions, was designed by the UN Disaster Management Team (UN-DMT) to provide disaster-affected areas with emergency relief in the sectors of food security (through agriculture), water supply and irrigation, nutrition, health, education, livestock, and coordination and monitoring, for a total of USD 2,981,000. The UN Appeal generated approximately USD 230,000, a sum that fell far short of the objective. However, substantial assistance was provided bilaterally or by other international organizations, such as the IFRC. In total, international contributions worth USD 16.9 million were reported to OCHA.

Two. 2000-2001 winter emergency situation in Mongolia

During the summer and autumn 2000, more than 60% of the Mongolian countryside suffered droughts in varying degree, particularly in the territories of Uvs, Zavkhan, Gobi-Altai, Dundgobi, and Ovorkhangai. As there was no rain until August and therefore very little pasture growth, large numbers of livestock gained insufficient body weight to endure the coming winter. In addition, the pastureland and crop areas in many central and western aimags were seriously damaged by field mice, grasshoppers resulting in malnutrition of animals and shortage of hay and fodder required for the winter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported through the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Ulaanbaatar, that large parts of the aimags of Bayankhongor, Bulgan, Dornod, Dornogobi, Gobi-Altai, Hentii, Khovd, Khuvsgul, Ovorkhangai, Selenge, Sukhbaatar, Tov, Uvs, and Zavkhan have already been affected by heavy snowfall. The average depth of snow was 60 to 70 cm in mountain areas and 15 to 20 cm in steppe regions. Average temperatures in these areas range from minus 25 to minus 30 degrees centigrade. Roads and mountain passes have already been blocked by snow and zud conditions appear to be forming.

It is reported that out of 200,000 herder households 76,230 herders from 133 soums in 17 aimags have already been affected by zud in varying degrees. These affected herders manage over 40% (12.8 million) of the livestock in Mongolia.

SEC reported that as of 8 January animal loss reached 370,000, which is 170,000 higher than this time of last year. Tov aimag experienced the highest livestock loss some 138 thousand animals and following aimags are leading by the number of losses:

  • Khovd: 56 thousand
  • Zavkhan: 38,2 thousand
  • Khuvsgol: 27.9 thousand
  • Arkhangai: 18. thousand
  • Govisumber: 15.8 thousand and
  • Govi-Altai: 15.1 thousand
7,000 herder households, with their 2.4 million livestock, from 8 aimags have been forced to winter camp in neighbouring aimags. Another 790 households, with their 542.0 thousand livestock, have moved into the border zone and 1,600 households, with 430 thousand livestock, are camping in the protected areas and national parks with the permission of the Government.

Three. National Response

The State Emergency Commission has divided all 133 soums of 17 zud affected aimags into 3 priority group based on the severity of zud and are channelling the assistance accordingly:

1. Severely affected by zud areas

  • The all territory of Zavkhan and Gobisumber aimag;
  • Uvs aimag - Tsagaankhairkhan, Malchin, Zuunkhangai, Ondorkangai, Naranbulag, Khyargas, Baruunturuun;
  • Khuvsgol aimag - Tstetserleg, Alag-Erdene, Tsagaan-Uul, Jargalant, Galt;
  • Arkhangai aimag - Tsakhir, Tariat, Khangai;
  • Tuv aimag - Bayan, Bayantsagaan, Arkhust, Altanbulag, Bayan-Onjuul, Sergelen;
  • Khentii aimag - Darkhan, Jargaltkhaan, Delgerkhaan, Bayan-Ulaan, Tsenkhermandal;
  • Dundgobi aimag - Tsagaandelger, Gobi-Ugtaal, Deren, Delgertsogt, Adaatsag;
  • Gobi-Altai aimag - Bugat, Tonkhil;
  • Khovd aimag - Bulgan, Ueynch, Altai;
  • Bayan-Ulgii aimag - Ulaankhus, Tsengel;
  • Sukhbaatar aimag - Bayandelger, Tuvshinshiree, Uulbayan, Erdenetsagaan soums
2. Moderately affected by zud areas
  • Khuvsgol aimag - Shine-Ider, Burentogtokh, Tomorbulag, Bayanzurkh, Arbulag;
  • Bayankhongor aimag - Gurvanbulag, Bayan-ondor,
  • Uvs aimag - Sagil, Turgen, Tarialan, Zavkhan
  • Khovd aimag - Monkhkhairkhan, Most, Duut, Tsetseg, Mankhan, Zereg;
  • Tuv aimag - Batsumber, Bayandelger, Bayantsogt, Bornuur, Buren, Delgerkhangai Jargalant, Ondorshireet, Ugtaal, Erdene, Bayanchandmani, Argalant, Bayankhangai;
  • Uvurhangai aimag - Kharkhorin, Khujirt, Esonzuil;
  • Arkhangai aimag - Khashaat, Khotont, Tsetserleg, Ondor-Ulaan, Jargalant;
  • Bulgan aimag - Rashaant, Guranbulag, Dashinchilen;
  • Bayan- Ulgii aimag - Altai, Sagsai, Buyant;
  • Sukhbaatar aimag - Ongon, Dariganga, Naran;
  • Dornod aimag - Khalkhgol soum
3. Areas might be affected by zud areas
  • Dornogobi aimag - Altanshiree, Ikhkhet, Airag, Delgerekh, Dalahjargalan,
  • Dornod aimag - Dashbalbar, Bayandun, Bayan-Uul, Tsagaan Ovoo, Sergelen, Kholonbuir, Matad, Gurvanzagal soums
At present the government is facing difficulties in delivering and supplying herders in zud affected areas with food, medicine, fodder and hay and diesel. The heavy snowfalls that frequently block roads and passes are also creating difficulties in carrying out state census of livestock scheduled to take place 15- 25 December 2000. The animal census has been delayed in Galt, Jargalant, Shine-Ider soums of Khuvsgol; Gurvanbulag of Bayankhongor, Tonkhil, Bugat soums of Gobi-Altai; Malchin, Tsagaankhairkhan, Baruunturuun soums of Uvs aimag and Zuunkhangai, Tarialan soums of Uvurkahnagi aimags due to heavy snowfall.

Several neighbouring soums of Arkhangai, Khuvsgol, Bayankhongor and Zavkhan aimag, Tonkhil and Bugat soums of Gobi-Altai have been disconnected due to heavy snowfall.

In Rashaant soum of Zavkhan aimag 260 herders with their 13.5 thousand livestock, (including herders that migrated from Telmen, Ikh-Uul for winter camping) are completely blocked by the heavy snow.

Four. The weather situation of the past period

A snow blizzard started on midnight of 31 December 2000 in Gobi, Central and East parts of the country. Wind speeds reached 93 - 100 kms per hour and in some places reached 126 kms per hour. Snow blizzard caused the deaths of 8 people and 28 herders were forced to camp in the open areas with their livestock that run downwind*. It is reported that 100,000 animal run downwind and 25.6 thousand of animals reached the border, out of which 84 crossed the border. During the storm in Dundgobi 2 gers and 1 animal shelter were burnt, 33 animal shelters, 1 ger and 5 electricity posts were broken; 491 animals were killed and 13,300 animals and 931 fences were buried under heavy snow.

Umnugobi aimag calculate that the damage from the snow blizzard equals to 11.4 million tugrugs and other aimags are still counting their losses.

Five. The weather forecast

In January there will be relatively little snowfall in most areas of Mongolia but in the Eastern steppe areas the temperature will drop 1.1-1.5 Co below the average and precipitation in the north of Khentii and Dornod will be above the average.

Heavy snow is expected in most part of the country during the February and the temperature is expected to drop 1-2 degrees below the average.

More than average snowfall is expected in March in the north of Altai, Khuvsgol, Khangai mountain areas, east of Dornod Mongolian steppe, in the west part of Dundgobi and Dornogobi, north of Umnugobi, south of Uvurkahngai aimags.

As a result of these forecasts the State Emergency Commission have concluded that winter 2000-2001 will be very harsh.

The most urgently needed relief items are as follows:

  • 17 ambulance cars and 129 medical kits for medical support to the herders
  • 8000 tonnes of car diesel for transportation of fodder and hay
  • 516 short-wave radios for communication
  • 129 generators for use by herders
  • 9000 tonnes of wheat flour, 405 tonnes of rice for food to supply of 3000 people throughout winter
  • 200 L veterinary drugs (Ivomec) to protect sick and weakened animals from parasites
  • Financial assistance for transportation to deliver all the relief to the zud affected herders.

Mongolian State Emergency Commission
Copyright =A9 2000 United Nations Mongolia.