Mongolia is currently experiencing a "Dzud," a multiple natural hazard consisting of a summer drought followed by a heavy winter snow with significantly colder temperatures. Daily temperatures drop to below -40=B0 Celsius across most of Mongolia, with 90 percent of the country covered in snow. The Government has declared 7 of 21 provinces as disaster areas, with 12 other provinces severely affected.
The severe weather threatens nomadic and isolated herder families, especially poor families who lack the resources to stockpile food or fuel for heating. Around 21 560 people have left their aimags (provinces) in search of better pastureland in the central regions.
Children remaining at home or in school dormitories are also at risk, since affected dormitories lack adequate heating facilities. An estimated 22 200 children in 265 dormitories are currently in need of assistance.
From the experience with a previous dzud in 2001, the possible health concerns include:
- Extended food shortages
- Lack of access to adequate shelter
- Lack of access to medical treatment, especially for obstetric cases
- Increase in the incidence acute respiratory infections and pneumonia
- Increased malnutrition and acute infections
The Ministry of Health has signaled that support will be needed in the following areas:
- Essential drugs, supplies and equipment to manage hypothermia
- Nutritional supplements especially for pregnant and lactating mothers and children under five
- Protective gear including warm clothes, boots, and gloves for health care workers
- Logistical support for routine immunization and for continued H1N1 vaccination
- Mental health and psychosocial support for those who have suffered losses
- Support and supervision for emergency health care workers in terms of transport and per diem for supervisors
No deaths or serious injuries have been reported as of 28 January 2010.
The Government is coordinating the response to the emergency. Logistical support and relief goods have been provided to affected areas. The State Emergency Commission has dispatched assessment teams to the rural areas, with findings expected within the week. The Government has appealed for international aid.
The UN is coordinating all donor contributions, with the first coordination meeting held on 26 January 2010. The UN Emergency team has formed to coordinate the humanitarian response. International partners and concerned government have brought in assessment teams and given financial aid to start humanitarian support.
The WHO is formulating a proposal for response in coordination with the Government and the Ministry of Health to address the expressed needs of the country, including:
- Organization of mental health and psychosocial support teams and distribution of guidelines for mental health
- Health services for children and pregnant women
- Protective clothing for emergency health care workers
- Medical supplies for the treatment of frostbite and hypothermia
- Support for assessment activities
- UN Country Team in Mongolia Situation Report No.1, Severe Winter Weather, 22 January 2010
- MOH report on the health situation and relief assistance for the Dzud, 25 January 2010
For further information please contact:
Dr Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn
Tel : (976) 11 327870
Fax: (976) 11-324683
Dr Salik Govind
Tel : (675) 325-7827
Fax: (976) 11-324683
WHO Regional Office
Dr Arturo Pesigan
Tel: (632) 528 9810
Fax: (632) 528 9072