Steppe fires and dry summer followed by heavy rains in September and early snow in October has put the rural population in an extremely vulnerable position. By February 2017, 77.8% of the country was covered in snow. Thick layers of snow and ice in the mountainous regions, as thick as 50 cm, cover most of the pastures and causing animals’ injuries and starvation. These harsh weather conditions and breakouts of deadly infectious diseases have already killed more than 45,000 heads of livestock, leaving more than 8,000 households in need of emergency assistance.
This year’s dzud caught even the usually prepared herders by surprise. An absence of cash and exhaustion of all reserves has forced the herders to look for a short-term solution. They are borrowing food and essential goods from shops, getting a bank loan if possible, or selling the animals for very low prices, consequently losing possible income from the cashmere, dairy, and meat. When a herder loses his livelihood, his whole family is threatened because they depend on him. This results in impoverishment of the rural population and undermines their resilience for the upcoming winter. People are not able to cope without help.