Mongolia: Extreme Winter Condition (MDRMN005) Emergency appeal operations update n° 1

Situation Report
Originally published
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This update provides an overview of the progress made since the allocation of CHF 158,459 from IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 14 January 2016 – which was followed by the launch of Emergency Appeal operation on 1 March – to support the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) in meeting relief and recovery needs of people affected by ongoing extreme winter conditions, locally known as dzud.

The main focus of MRCS during the period under review has been on assessments, procurement of food items and distribution of food to households in need. In this regard, 1,500 most vulnerable herder households (approximately 7,500 people) have been assisted in eight most affected provinces – Arkhangai, Bayan-Ulgii, Bulgan, Khuvsgul, Selenge, Tuv, Uvs and Zavkhan. Of these, 1,200 families – in five provinces of Arkhangai, Bayan-Ulgii, Tuv, Uvs and Zavkhan – have each received two-month food parcels and cash transfers worth MNT 64,000 (approximately CHF 32) per household. The unconditional cash assistance provided will enable the most affected vulnerable households to address a range of immediate needs. An additional 300 families in three provinces of Bulgan, Khuvsgul and Selenge have only received two-month food parcels, with cash assistance planned at a later stage.

The situation

Mongolia is experiencing extremely low temperatures and heavy snow falls, starting November 2015, which have resulted in an extreme winter situation – locally known as dzud – that has affected 90 per cent of country. Based on assessments conducted by the Government of Mongolia in late December 2015 and subsequent situation updates, 98 soums (sub-districts) in 16 aimags (provinces) are currently categorized as having dzud conditions while 111 soums in 20 provinces have conditions close to dzud. The severe winter threatens the livelihoods of some 500,000 Mongolians who live as nomadic herdsmen as they are now at risk of losing their livestock since the thick snow cover means that livestock are unable to graze and therefore will perish.

According to recent information from the Mongolian Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment, heavy snowfall and snowstorms will continue in March, especially in the north-western aimags. In total 965,000 people – mostly herders – have been affected by dzud and are on the edge of facing devastating cold, snow storm, loss of their livestock and food insecurity. Among the affected populations are 5,019 expectant women, 20,874 children aged under five years, 6,117 people with a disability and 4,173 households living below the national poverty line.

The authorities continue to strive to deliver necessary services to the affected people, with humanitarian actors – including MRCS – complementing government efforts. As MRCS continues with its interventions, there are challenges that are being faced. For instance, due to worsening conditions at aimag and soum levels, transportation and distribution of food parcels is taking longer time and demanding more resources. Owing to severe snowstorms in western aimags, most roads are impassible and need to be cleared before delivery trucks can access. This situation has implications in terms of time (consumed to clear the roads) and fuel consumption (delivery trucks have to spend more time before they reach delivery points).
Despite the above challenges, the operation is still on track and is planned to be completed within the timeframe communicated in the emergency appeal.