Mongolia: Dzud Appeal No. 02/03 Final Report


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In Brief

Appeal No. 02/03; Final Report; Period covered: 17 January to 17 November, 2003; Final appeal coverage: 106.8%.

Appeal history:

  • Launched on 17 January 2003 for 10 months for CHF 3,906,000 (USD 2.85 million or EUR 2.67 million) to assist 115,000 beneficiaries (19,313 families). The number of beneficiaries was decreased to 96,565 in June.
  • The operational budget was revised twice during the operation to CHF 3,147,000.
  • Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) Allocated: CHF 300,000.

Related Emergency Appeal: Mongolia Dzud 02/03


Since the winter of 1999, more than ten thousand herding families in Mongolia have lost their livestock and livelihoods to the dzud phenomena. Dzud, a Mongolian term, refers to a variety of winter conditions that destroys or prevents access to grazing material, preventing animals from eating and thus surviving during the winter months from October to May. Conditions that lead to dzud include heavy snowfall (white dzud), the formation of an impenetrable ice layer over pastures (ice dzud), or a lack of sufficient winter fodder for animals following summer drought (black dzud).

The dzud conditions that affected Mongolia's herding families in 2003 were a culmination of ten years of harsh winters and three years of dry summers which drastically effected the growth of herbage. Additionally, in some areas of Mongolia, there has also been over stocking and subsequent poaching off the ground and overgrazing of pastures. This has led to the disappearance of herbage that is relied upon to prepare hay to cover the needs of livestock during the winter months.

The people of Mongolia have traditionally lived a nomadic existence through herding livestock that includes sheep, goat, cattle, yak, horses and camels. There are also many who have returned to herding following the close of factories in the early 1990's.

Over a period of four years, 1999 to 2003 statistics suggest that approximately 8.5 million or 25% of the national herd have perished as a result of dzud conditions. The fact that traditional pastures have been over stretched over the last ten years has resulted in herders finding it significantly harder to sustain their livelihood in the severe Mongolian winter climate that includes dzuds.

Dzud and drought conditions in Mongolia have substantially depleted coping mechanisms, largely due to an increase in the numbers of herders that possess insufficient animals to sustain a living. This has resulted in an increase in poverty owing to a lack of assets or savings, and unemployment of ex-herders in soum (county) and aimag (province) centres. It has also caused an increase in the number of households migrating to Ulaanbaatar, where there is already massive unemployment. Not registering with the authorities owing to unaffordable fees has until recently resulted in families being denied access to social services. However, this position was recently changed at the end of 2003.


The Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) in partnership with the Federation launched three emergency appeals between the years 1999 and 2002. These appeals provided relief assistance to herders who lost all their assets, and herders with unsustainable herds of less than one hundred animals. Assistance was also catered to support the new urban poor that often comprised of failed herders who had migrated to the capital Ulaanbaatar and other urban centres in the provinces in search of an alternative living.

In November 2002, a Federation assessment team of five people led by an independent consultant was commissioned to undertake a rapid review of the impact and sustainability of the MRCS/Federation dzud operations and development programmes during the period 1999 to 2002.

They were further tasked with developing recommendations on the most relevant, effective and sustainable programmes for future MRCS and Federation co-operation. Based on their findings, the assessment team in consultation with the national society was charged with determining whether the herders would require further Red Cross/Red Crescent assistance during the winter of 2002-2003.

Mongolia experienced early and heavy snowfall at the end of 2002, and according to the MRCS and the state emergency commission, 665,000 people or 133,000 families (average four to five people per family) were severely affected. Drought during the summer of 2002 prevented a large number of herders from collecting enough hay for the winter, forcing many to use scarce stocks of hay at the beginning of September that year. In a report published in December 2002, the assessment team concluded that the situation merited further assistance in the form of an emergency appeal to cover the needs of herders and the urban poor during the winter of 2002-2003. It also stressed that even a bad winter without a dzud would exacerbate the effects of the three previous cycles of drought and dzud that had already created extremes of deprivation amongst a swathe of the population.

On 7 January, the head of the Federation's East Asia regional office, the regional disaster management delegate and the Federation's logistics delegate based in DPRK arrived in Ulaanbaatar to work with the MRCS on appeal preparation and to make contact with embassies and the media. During the same week the Federation's information delegate from Beijing travelled to Mongolia to gather video footage and prepare publicity material for the launch of the appeal.

During the second week of January the Federation released CHF 300,000 from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) for the procurement of 1,000 MT of wheat flour. The MRCS with support from the Federation personnel on loan from Beijing and Pyongyang distributed six month rations of flour to 3,300 families (16,500 people) in three of the worst affected aimags of Khubsgul, Bulgan and Selenge to the north of the capital Ulaanbaatar. The DREF allocation was extremely valuable as it allowed the Federation and the MRCS to initiate planned relief activities while awaiting traditional donor contributions.

On 17 January 2003, at the request of the MRCS upon the recommendations of the assessment team, the Federation launched Emergency Appeal (02/03) seeking CHF 3,906,000 to assist 115,000 beneficiaries for ten months. Although the Mongolian government elected not to declare a state of emergency during the winter of 2002-2003, their representatives during a co-ordination meeting confirmed the humanitarian needs of much of the population and expressed their confidence that the MRCS and the Federation would be able to take the lead in providing essential support to those who were most greatly affected. Previous MRCS/Federation emergency appeals in response to dzuds have been launched in the month of February. Following recommendations made by the assessment team, the 2003 appeal was launched in January, thus allowing the MRCS and the Federation to successfully start distributions one month earlier then they had in previous operations.

The overall strategy of Appeal (02/03) addressed the household needs of the population seeking to contribute to the dzud survival and recovery of 115,000 people in seventeen aimags by providing wheat flour, children's clothing and adult boots. The items selected for distribution were indicated by the MRCS to the assessment team as being most useful for affected communities. The items also have significant value for beneficiaries in terms of both consumption and assistance to household economies, thus liberating household resources to obtain other priority items.

The operation was also viewed as an opportunity to reduce the long term vulnerability of the population through the revitalisation of seventeen soum and three aimag branches of the MRCS that had played a part in the distribution process. Following lengthy discussions between the Federation and the national society, this objective was amended to reflect a policy change of the society regarding disaster preparedness (DP) that, apart from being a core activity, is also seen as a major priority within the streamlining of their organisation. This amendment resulted in the recognition and support of seven existing branches of the MRCS who are to be developed as regional DP centres representing aimags immediately adjacent to them. It also recognises eight further soum level branches that have been allocated funds for refurbishment of fabric and essential heating systems, as well as the development of income generating activities such as the baking of bread.

At the beginning of February 2003, two Federation delegates (a relief co-ordinator and a logistics delegate) were sent to Mongolia to work with the MRCS to implement planned activities, while the Federation's head of country delegation arrived in Mongolia at the same time. The programme also originally envisaged the deployment of a third delegate dedicated to field activities, but this was postponed and eventually cancelled because of financial constraints and because the Mongolian delegation only had one serviceable field vehicle.

Operational realities demanded some adjustments to planned activities in order to meet the needs of the beneficiaries, and to implement activities in a timely manner with resources available. Although the appeal was issued in January 2003, funding did not come through until May 2003. The time allocation however for implementing the programme remained the same. The evolution of the funding position, combined with widely fluctuating exchange rates over the operational period necessitated two revisions to the operational budget to reflect the actual amount of funding available for the programme planned. In June the number of beneficiaries was further adjusted to reflect that while acquiring significant support, the operation had not obtained the funding that had been originally envisaged. As a result, the beneficiary base number was reduced to 96,565 people.


The government of Mongolia is mindful of lessons learnt from a succession of dzuds. Together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a variety of short and long term strategic interventions have been made to address some of the hardships sustained by both rural and urban communities.

Short term measures consist of joint Ministry of Food and Agriculture and disaster management plus mitigation interventions in the worst effected soums of Mongolia. These include human resource support for herder communities who are in dire straits, and the supply of fuel for all terrain transport of commodities to affected areas. Prevention measures have incorporated the intensification of winter ger groupings, thus enabling the delivery of fodder when needs arise and the availability of long term financial loans for preparing food for the winter months.

They also involve the improvement of the water supply to selected pastures to ensure the growth of quality grass for hay production as well as the identification of locations for wintering large numbers of families and their livestock that are predetermined by national and local government. Long term measures include changes in legislation to incorporate the need for disaster management and mitigation, while reforming the law on civil protection and civil defence.

There are over two thousand five hundred NGOs operating in Mongolia at this time and they have a variety of agendas while operating with limited capacities. According to UNDP, coordination and reaching a consensus between them has proved extremely difficult if not impossible. This has meant that as a group of organisations working in the humanitarian sector, they have very limited capacity regarding advocacy and lobbying. Consequently, this has resulted in there being no memorandum signed with the MRCS as stipulated in one of the appeals objectives.

Various international NGOs have ongoing programmes in Ulaanbaatar, and in a few of the aimags of Mongolia. Although they have a much less extensive national network than the MRCS, many have developed significant capacities for development, and innovative community based projects. The principle players in this regard include World Vision, Joint Christian Services International (JSC), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Save the Children's Fund from the United Kingdom, Action Against Hunger from France and the United Nations Children's Education Fund (UNICEF). Government agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and consultancy organisations such as Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) of the European Union almost focus exclusively on long term development.

To support the need for sound communication, the UNDP has opened a website to highlight the needs of the herder communities. Long-term strategies include the encouragement of agrarians to change their focus from animal to crop husbandry and to diversify their activities. They also include an assurance that communities are coordinated in times of severe weather, enabling the development of equitable recovery strategies for those who fail in their capacity as herders on the Steppe.

The second operational update referred to an interagency coordination meeting initiated by the MRCS in February 2003. Although there have not been any subsequent gatherings, this initial meeting was regarded as a success. However, it is the general view of the MRCS and a number of agencies that interagency meetings should not be a regular forum for discussion and that it forms no part in any bilateral activity. As agencies are working in different areas of the country with varying agendas, such meetings are not thought to be sufficiently constructive. Discussions held between individual agencies are thought to be a better medium for exchanging points of view and discussing strategy, and as the result the Federation has continued with meetings of this type.

More general coordination meetings are held monthly at the UNDP Office in Ulaanbaatar involving donors, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Federation. The agenda of these meetings varies from month to month and covers a range of topics associated with the nation's development of a market economy. It periodically addresses purely humanitarian issues and it is to these meetings the MRCS, international NGOs and NGOs are invited. The UNDP forum enables the delegation to keep abreast of broader economic interventions financed by structures other than international NGOs and their traditional backers, namely the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for a full description of the national society profile, please access the Federation's website at

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

Mongolian Red Cross Society;; phone: +97611329433; fax: +97611320934.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Mongolia delegation; Udaya Regmi, HoD;; phone/ fax: +97611321684.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Geneva; Satoshi Sugai, desk officer;; Phone: +41227304237; fax: +41227330395.

For longer-term programmes, please refer to the Federation's Annual Appeal.

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