Mongolia: Dzud Office of the Resident Coordinator Situation Report No. 1 (As of 14 April 2016)



  • As Mongolia transitions to spring, 20 per cent of the country still has snow cover with 23 districts (soums) in six provinces (aimags) experiencing white dzud or nearly white dzud conditions.

  • Conditions remain unseasonably cold and there are concerns of an iron dzud emerging in some parts.

  • 858,153 camels, horses, cows, sheep and goats have so far perished as a result of harsh conditions; 9,115 from disease.

  • 41 percent of Mongolia’s total herder population (225,788 people) has been affected by the harsh 2015/16 winter. Of these, 11,800 households with less than 100 animals are considered most vulnerable.

  • The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is seeking US$14.3 million to provide immediate assistance over the next six months in food security, nutrition, protection, agriculture, livelihoods and early recovery. US$6.36 million (45 per cent) has so far been secured by the international community to complement the Government of Mongolia’s (GoM) response efforts

225,788 people are adversely impacted by harsh conditions in 211 districts

US$14.3 million needed to meet humanitarian assistance requirements

858,153 livestock have perished over the past winter

Situation Overview

Mongolia has one of the coldest climates in the world, with temperatures dropping below -40ºC for several months each year and extremely heavy snowfalls. The harshness of the 2015/16 winter has resulted in significant loss of livestock and compounded existing strain on thousands of herders across the country. The situation is unique to Mongolia and is known as a dzud; a complex, long-lasting natural disaster in which a summer drought is followed by heavy snowfalls and unusually low temperatures in winter, and then a harsh spring. 225,800 people have been negatively affected by dzud in 211 districts (soums), which is the equivalent of 41 per cent of the total herder population in Mongolia.

As the country transitions to spring, and the snow melts, the number of soums facing dzud or near-dzud conditions have decreased. According to the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) 20 per cent of the country still has snow cover with 13 soums in Zavkhan and Uvs aigams affected by white dzud and 10 soums in Uvs, Zavkhan, Khuvsgol and Bayan-Uligii aimags affected by ‘nearly white dzud’. White dzud is characterized by increased snow density (above 0.25 ground per cubic cm), lower than normal temperatures (by 3.0 C), and increased snow cover. It has been reported that the Mongolian summer of 2015 was exceptionally dry also partially because of the El Nino effects in the region. Whilst primarily affecting livestock exposed to extreme winter conditions, dzud events should not be seen as simply winter emergencies or livestock famines. Rather these conditions have profound and farreaching impacts on the Mongolian pastoral herder sector which depends on livestock for food and income. Despite a reduction in snow overall, the stress on vulnerable herders’ remains extremely serious due to the protracted nature of the disaster and increased rates of livestock death.

The number of animals that have perished increased significantly from 40,000 in January 2016 to 858,100 by 7 April 2016. These losses have been compounded by a very dry summer and drought conditions that resulted in low crop yields and over-grazing, meaning that herders were unable to adequately prepare adequate supplies of hay and fodder to sustain the winter months. Based on previous dzuds, the number of livestock deaths may increase to as high as 1.2 million during the spring, when weak and starved animals are expected to die in large numbers. The situation may yet worsen, as the spring birthing season is predicted to coincide with further livestock deaths in April and May amid unseasonably cold conditions.

The GoM, together with humanitarian partners, has been closely monitoring dzud conditions. As the winter months end, heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures persist in many areas, prolonging and intensifying the suffering for both people and their livestock. Assessment findings show that the affected population is suffering from a range of factors including lack of access to basic services, food insecurity, loss of livelihoods, and psychological trauma. The livelihoods of 62,719 nomadic households of Mongolia who practice herding and animal husbandry represent a sector that contributes 13 per cent to the country’s total GDP. In particular, many poorer herder families often do not have cash or income to withstand continuous shocks and stresses and therefore debt is increasing.

The United Nations (UN) is supporting the GoM to ensure the needs of vulnerable rural herder households are met as they continue to face harsh winter Dzud conditions around the country. US$2.4 million has been allocated to response activities through the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). CERF will be implemented as a package which include food, nutrition, protection, agriculture and early recovery, and will complement the broader response effort being carried out by UN Partners, INGOs and the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS). The HCT will continue to work with the Government and international partners to advocate for more resources and to assist the most vulnerable households.