"At a Glance"
In 2002 the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) took a proactive role in self development to address the increasing needs of its beneficiaries. Three consecutive years of severe summer droughts caused by dzuds has led to the decimation of the country's livestock, leaving Mongolia's extensive herding population without any means of earning a living. The MRCS with support from the International Federation continued to provide humanitarian assistance to families that had lost all or most of their animals due to the overwhelming conditions. Of note was the MRCS's creative use of the media on World Red Cross/Red Crescent Day to disseminate key messages about HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness.
Mongolia continues to struggle with the effects of a transition from a command economy and communist rule to democracy and a market economy. The transition has resulted in an increase in unemployment and poverty, and a widening of the gap between rich and poor.
Widespread poverty combined with three years of significant natural disasters, such as severe dzuds, extreme winter conditions specific to Mongolia which lead to severe droughts in the summer, increased the overall vulnerability of those persons that the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) with support from the International Federation seek to assist through its short and long term programmes.
Extreme weather conditions, over the past three years, severely depleted the population's coping mechanisms. There was an increasing number of herders with insufficient, or not enough livestock to sustain their livelihood. Life in the Mongolian countryside has never been easy, but now it is tougher than ever. For many, moving to sprawling urban centers is the only solution. A mass exodus of herder families to the cities resulted in a dramatic increase in the urban population.
Rainfall during the summer of 2002 was insufficient, and the State Emergency Commission (SEC) declared that 70% of the country was affected by severe drought. Sixteen out of 22 aimags were affected, and some 600,000 people were reported to be facing extreme difficulties.
Observations by the MRCS, a field trip conducted by the Federation Field Delegate, and feedback from other NGOs, confirmed the severity of the drought. There has been little grass growth in this area, little hay was harvested, livestock were in poor condition and had not put on enough winter fat, and many steppe land and forest fires have made the situation worse. It is understood that dzud conditions follow drought, and there are grave concerns being voiced for the coming winter.
The MRCS moved to initiate another emergency appeal as quickly as possible, allowing time for early response to the predicted disaster.
Two activities carried out by MRCS in 2002 worth highlighting were:1) the carrying out of a Vulnerability Capacity Assessment (VCA); and, 2) a review of Federation assisted short and long term programming from over the past three years.
The Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) conducted a VCA from March - May 2002 with technical and financial support from the International Federation. The purpose of the VCA was to assess the most recent needs of vulnerable groups within the Mongolian population; and, identify MRCS priorities for enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of activities carried out through the Society's programmes.
In November, a five member Federation Review Team, led by an independent consultant, commenced a two week rapid review of the impact and sustainability of the three MRCS/Federation dzud operations, and development programming from the past three years; and, to provide recommendations for the most relevant, effective and sustainable programmes for future MRCS/Federation co-operation.
In December, at the end of the two weeks, the Review Team presented its preliminary findings and recommendations to, and sought feedback from, the MRCS and the Federation's Mongolia and Beijing Delegations. The Review Team Leader, following the distribution of the Final Report, presented the findings to relevant sectors within the Geneva Secretariat, and held teleconferences with sister/donor National Societies. Following these debriefings, the International Federation facilitated a process, whereby key MRCS partners (MRCS, Mongolia Delegation, Beijing Delegation, Secretariat Departments, Sister National Societies) were invited to provide their comments on each of the recommendations presented in the Final Review Report.
Following the 1999 shut down of International Federation representation in Mongolia, the Federation recruited numbers of short term delegates only for Dzud disasters. In August 2001, a Federation Programme Coordinator was assigned to work in Mongolia, to provide support and advice to the MRCS. In 2003, the Federation re-opened a fully operating delegation.
The Federation has continued to support the MRCS's long term development programme through the annual appeal process, and an emergency operation responding to the 2002-2003 dzud. The latest emergency appeal, Mongolia Dzud (Appeal 02/2003), is distinctive because it has incorporated capacity building initiatives aimed at: strengthening the capacity of the National Society to mobilize communities to implement risk reduction; and, prevention activities and/or post disaster recovery initiatives at the grass roots level. The emergency appeal also, wherever possible, incorporated recommendations made by the review team.
Objectives, Achievements and Constraints
The 2001 emergency appeal for Mongolia Snowfalls (Appeal 07/2001) to provide humanitarian assistance to 7,000 families, was extended through 2002 to assist an additional 4,400 nomadic herding families. As winter 2002 progressed, similar conditions affected the southwest and western areas of the country, making it obvious that further MRCS support was needed. The confirmation of these needs led to the extension of the relief operation implemented from June to October 2002.
The International Federation and MRCS confirmed that large numbers of people lost their animals, or did not have enough left to support themselves, and that herding families, forced off their land by lack of a means of earning a living, continued to migrate from the grasslands to the urban centres. The MRCS/International Federation Appeal proposed to assist 4,400 families with distributions of food and basic non-food items, utilising unspent funds of CHF 703,000 from the initial Mongolia Snowfalls 2001 Appeal. Following a donor consultation process, and approval from donors, the "extension operation" was implemented.
Objectives, activities and results: extension of the Mongolia Snowfalls operation (Appeal 07/2001) into 2002.
A decision was taken, following the review of a proposal, to use the available CHF 703,000, to assist 4,400 families (24,200 people) for three months, in six of the affected aimags, with a monthly relief package of 150 kg of wheat flour, 5 ltr. of cooking oil, 2 kg of block tea, a set of winter clothing (trousers and jacket ), and 1 pair of leather boots.
The Relief Operation Extension was conducted incorporating the lessons learned during previous operations, MRCS institutional memory, and the Society's close contacts with local authorities. Beneficiaries were selected from the most vulnerable of the affected population, targeting those that had lost all or most of their animals, and had therefore lost their livelihood. Of particular concern were those that had to move to the soum and aimag centres.
Beneficiary lists were compiled by MRCS personnel in collaboration with local authority staff. Notification of distributions were disseminated by posted notices, radio broadcasts, and by word of mouth.
Objective 1: To provide a monthly food ration for three months to supplement dwindling food reserves.
Distribution of this food was essential for supporting the identified families through a difficult time when stocks of dried meat were depleted, and dairy products were few. It also assisted families to prepare for winter. Some 4,400 affected herding families received: a total 660 MT of wheat flour, 22,000 kg cooking oil and 8,800 kg of black tea.
Objective 2: To provide a set of winter clothes and a pair of boots to the head (male or female) of the household.
Winter clothing and boots were worn out by the labours of the herders in trying to manage their livestock over the past winter. By providing these items, the limited assets of the beneficiary herding family can be used for other essentials. A total of 4,400 set of warm clothes, 3,520 male and 880 female leather boots were distributed to 4,400 families.
Objective 3: During the monitoring stage to be conducted by the MRCS and Federation Field delegate, beneficiaries will be interviewed to produce information which will assist the programme planning of the National Society.
It is recognised that one of the biggest challenges facing Mongolia is the growing number of families forced to leave the grasslands due to drought and dzud,, and move to the urban centres. For the National Society, the question still remaining to be answered is, how to incorporate continued assistance to affected herding families within its core programmes.
Objective 4: To provide psycho-social support to herder families
Visits from MRCS members and local authority staff, accompanied by the distribution of commodities, helps some depressed families deal with the loss of their animals and livelihood. Local entertainment staged by the MRCS at distribution sites, and ongoing visits by volunteers to vulnerable families are important MRCS activities helping people to cope with the psychological impact of recent events.
Objective 5: To provide the MRCS with logistical resources to enhance infrastructure.
The following items have been purchased and delivered to the National Society:
- 3 Computers
- 3 Printers
- 6 Cameras
- 3 Digital Video cameras
- 1 LCD Projector
- 2 Satellite telephones
- 2 Global positioning systems ( GPS )
- 1 Uaz 4WD Van
The satellite telephones and GPS are essential safety items for MRCS staff, particularly during the harsh winters when travel can be very difficult and risky.
Disaster Preparedness (DP) was identified by the Mongolian Red Cross as one of four key areas for improvement. Since 1995 the MRCS has defined its policy and operational directions for disaster prevention, disaster relief and disaster preparedness. In 2001, the MRCS further developed its policy and strategy in line with the Federation Strategy 2010. The Society has trained a substantial number of staff and volunteers in DP, and is involved in an ongoing relief operation for nomadic herder families affected by severe winter dzuds over the past three years.
The MRCS/Federation progressed with developing the Society's capacity to implement VCA in 2002. Volunteers and staff were trained in responding to disasters, and to work with communities on disaster mitigation initiatives. Monthly radio programmes on disaster prevention and first aid and the destroying of animal carcasses were coordinated with the seasonal disasters that were happening in the country.
The frequency of disaster, previous disasters, loss and possible affects on the population have been assessed in cooperation with the Federation and PNS. The assessment concluded that the MRCS's strategy, curriculum of the programme, emergency relief operations and rehabilitation relief stock and scope should be revised
Thanks to receiving 100% of the necessary funding for DP activities in 2002, the development programme is facilitating timely and effective work from the National Society.
The overall objectives of the programme was to conduct Vulnerability and capacity assessments in five targeted locations, to procure emergency relief stock, and carry out DP activities.
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