Mongolia / East-Asia: Severe Winter - Final Report (MDRMN011)

Situation Report
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Description of the disaster

Dzud is a Mongolian term for severe winter condition in which livestock perish in large number, due to malnutrition or extreme cold. The people of Mongolian are traditionally pastoral herders and presently, one-fourth of the Mongolian people are still travelling with their portable homes to find better pasture for their herd. Livestock is a vital element of herders’ life as it is their only source of livelihood. Herders consume livestock meat, use their milk to produce dairy products, and sell their hide and wool for cash.

Livestock herding has been traditional lifestyle of Mongolians for centuries but now many herders migrate to the cities for jobs with fixed salary. Due to climate change and other factors such as the frequent and rapid unfavorable natural phenomenon like drought, cold wave etc. in recent years, which turned herding into a perilous business.
Mongolia has mostly dry and cold climate due to Siberian high, and the temperature fluctuation between winter and summer is wide as it reaches +40 degrees Celsius in summer while -40 degrees Celsius in the winter. During winter, most herders lack of hay and fodder due to financial restraints when the pasture is covered by thick layer of snow or ice. Herders generally reserve hay bales in autumn but it’s never enough to feed the herd throughout the winter.

Each year, National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring (NAMEM) publishes Dzud1 risk map which uses summer condition, pasture carrying capacity, livestock number, anomalous precipitation and temperature, snow depth, biomass, drought index, temperature forecast etc. to predict the regions that may experience severe winter condition. On 2 January 2020, dzud risk map was published and 97 soums2 in 13 provinces were reported to be at very high risk, which triggered the Dzud Early Action Protocol (EAP) for Mongolia. The threshold for EAP activation was set a point where three or more provinces have more than 20 per cent of dzud risk in their area. The trigger threshold was developed jointly with the Climate Centre to ensure that the EAP is only activated in the episode of extreme weathers.

Through the EAP, MRCS delivered unrestricted cash assistance and livestock nutrition kits to the 1,000 vulnerable households in the most-at-risk areas to assist them in meeting their immediate needs and save their livestock and livelihoods. MRCS targeted eight provinces (Govi-Altai, Khovd, Arkhangai, Bulgan, Uvurkhangai, Dundgobi, Sukhbaatar, and Khentii) which were identified as areas with very high risk of dzud. Even though early action was triggered, winter situation became worse and as stated by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring (NAMEM) on 12 January 2020, over 70 per cent of the country was covered by 10-30 cm snow layer and 41 soums in nine provinces in white dzud condition while 51 soums in 16 provinces (Table 1) are near white dzud3 .