Livestock are Mongolia’s national treasure. They are also central to Mongolia’s economy and food security. This perhaps also explains partly the government’s policy to attain food security.
Their protection is enshrined in the national constitution. According to Dr. J. Batsuuri, Social Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, "the Constitution protects and ensure the safety of the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House and the Livestock; but first priority is the livestock."
In a predominantly herders country, death of livestock spells disaster for the very poor and poor herders. The drought in summer of 1999, the coming of early winter in September, "bitterly cold weather" (-50 degree centigrade) in some areas and the severe snowstorm from September to March all contributed to the death of approximately 1,787,744 animals in 13 aimags or 171 sums altogether. Mongolia has a three tiered system of regional administration. It is comprised of 18 aimags (provinces) each with its own governor and administrative system. Each aimag has an average of 20 sums (districts), also with their own governor and administrative committee. Each sum, has four bags (community centre), with a bag leader and citizens committee. The bag leader has the closest contact with herders and interacts with them at the grassroots level. Each bag holds a meeting of all herders four times a year which is also attended by the sum governor or his representative. This system feeds information upwards to the central government.
The Mongolians call this weather phenomenon multiple dzud, the worst dzud in 30 years.
As of April 1, this has affected 13 of the 21 aimags and about 412,000 or 15.7% of the total population of Mongolia. The figures will certainly climb as more sums become accessible.