Mongolia /East-Asia: Cold wave Final report early action (EAP2020MN02)

Situation Report
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Summary of the Early Action Protocol (EAP)

For many years, Mongolian herders have been fighting against unique disaster called “dzud1 ”, a severe winter condition in which large number of livestock perish due to malnutrition or directly from cold. Mongolia has a high elevation, with a cold and dry climate, and is dominated by extreme continental climate with long, cold winters and short summers, during which most precipitation falls. As effects of climate change intensifies year by year, the frequency of severe winter grows and makes it even harder for herders who are already busy competing with harsh climate. Dzud is not only the cause of livestock mortality but it destroys livelihoods of herders and greatly damages the general economy and society depending on the scope. Most sadly, dzud could be the reason for suicide as when the herders find all of their livestock which they tended all for their whole life perished over a night, they experience great psychological trauma. Another social issue which follows dzud is a flow of migrants to urban areas. Herding is a way of life for over a fifth of Mongolians, and of symbolic importance to the whole country, but now many herders give up on herding and move to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, for a fixed job salary. Former herders usually settle on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and are lacking skills other than herding, and they usually end up with low-paying jobs with no social security. Even worse, there are many cases former herders who moved to the city became an alcoholic or step into theft and crimes.

MRCS has been assisting the herders who had been affected by dzud for many years to save livelihoods and relieve the suffering and has been working to improve the means to assist the herders and reduce impacts of dzud. From 2019 winter, with support from IFRC and Climate Centre, MRCS became available to prevent the vulnerable herders from impacts of dzud. Using pre-defined mechanism, the Early Action Protocol (EAP), the scientific trigger, dzud risk map developed by NAMEM, MRCS could allocate humanitarian aid to the high-risk areas before dzud strikes.

On 10 December 2020, dzud risk map was published and 16.5 per cent of the total country area at very high risk while 50.4 per cent was at high risk which triggered EAP for Mongolia. The threshold for trigger activation is when dzud risk map indicates 20 per cent coverage of the highest risk level over no less than three provinces. On the dzud risk map published on 2 January 2021, eight provinces had more than 20 per cent of risk in their areas.

As defined in the EAP document, MRCS targeted 19 provinces including Govi-Altai, Dundgovi, Uvurkhangai, Tuv, Bayankhongor, Umnugovi, Khovd, Zavkhan, Arkhangai, Bulgan, Bayan-Ulgii, Uvs, Khuvsgul, Orkhon, Selenge, Dornogovi, Govisumber, Darkhan-Uul, Dornod and assisted 2,000 vulnerable herder households (7,394 people) in those provinces with unconditional cash grant and livestock nutrition kits. Initial assessments were conducted by MRCS branches in local areas through visiting herder households in high-risk areas to identify the actual needs. The assessments showed that the herder households had been lacking cash in hand because herders’ source for cash is seasonally available as they sell goat wool in spring. If they were provided with cash, the herders could buy hay and fodder from the nearby salesman (for example in province center). Also, the herders generally had said livestock minerals and vitamins which were vital to the herd. In rural areas, livestock’s vitamin and minerals are scarce, and livestock are malnourished without the vitamins and minerals. To elaborate, cold-stressed livestock in malnourished condition cannot digest, even they are fed with hay or fodder. The malnourished livestock must first be supplied with vitamins and minerals to recover their digestive system.