Mongolia is climatically and geographically one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world. It experiences a spectrum of disasters ranging from heavy snowfalls in winter, strong winds and dust storms, drought, earthquakes, and animal and human epidemic infectious diseases. The three largest cities in Mongolia are located in magnitude 7 to 8 seismic active areas.
The Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) strives to assist the most vulnerable people in both urban and rural settings, with one of the national society's priorities to build up the resiliency of communities and herders against disasters. This remains a huge challenge for the national society as half of the country, approximately 1.2 million people, are spread out over a territory nearly three times the size of France.
The Mongolian Red Cross Society relies very much on external technical assistance and international funding of its programmes in order to increase its capacity to achieve its objectives and to support and assist those most vulnerable in the country.
In the 2009-2010 programme cycle, the International Federation plans to support the MRCS in the areas of disaster management, health and care, organizational development, and principles and values. The programmes will further integrate the Fundamental Principles and humanitarian values that guide Red Cross work.
The total budget for 2009 is CHF 1,129,908 (USD 1,032,823 or EUR 719,687) and for 2010 is CHF 1,160,015 (USD 1,060,343 or EUR 738,863). Click here for the budget summary.
Mongolia is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 114 out of 177 according to the human development index1. Despite the country's increased economic growth in the past several years, many Mongolian people have only marginally benefited from it. The most recent estimates indicate that 36.1 percent of the population live below the national poverty line and 18.9 percent of the population live on less than USD 1 per day2. Increasing world food prices exacerbate the already dismal situation affecting the poorest in Mongolia, with prices for basic food items such as wheat flour and rice rising over 100 percent during the first few months of 2008.
To cushion the potentially adverse social impact of the country's transition towards a free market economy, the government runs a fairly extensive system of social safety net programmes for society's most vulnerable groups. For example, in 2007 alone, the government's social assistance expenditure was approximately CHF 88 million or about seven percent of the annual gross domestic product3.
Due to several factors, the living conditions of the most vulnerable in Mongolia have declined considerably in recent years. The country's political landscape, along with its undeveloped economic and financial systems, continues to present obstacles in making significant progress to catch up with neighbours in the region. The results of the elections in 2008 put in place a government which has already been in power for the past eight years, but with a clear majority. The government can now pass laws that originally had been blocked by the opposition, such as the mineral law which is anticipated to generate a higher GDP.
General economic hardship is further aggravated by the dzud4 phenomena, and a combination of dry summers and harsh winters. Economic necessity and the stress of herding in such conditions have forced thousands of mainly nomadic families to resettle around cities, particularly Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, in the hope of securing alternative employment. Much of Ulaanbaatar has expanded to absorb over one million of the country's population. Its infrastructure is unable to cope with this growing influx and vulnerable individuals and families, particularly the elderly and disabled who are often socially excluded and lack sufficient government support.
In the past three-five years, Mongolia has experienced some 25-30 disasters, half of which were fatal and destructive:
- Storm winds occurred 57 times causing economic damage totaling MNT 1.3 billion (CHF1.1 million). Thousands of families were affected and more than 300,000 livestock perished.
- Over 28 people have died as a result of floods.
- Three people died in 358 forest fires.
- At least 15 earthquakes were recorded in ten provinces.
Earthquakes are one of the most devastating forms of natural disasters, and in Mongolia, 80 percent of the total land area and 70 percent of urban areas are located in earthquake-prone regions. Ulaanbaatar accommodates more than half of its total population and produces around 60 percent of local products. However, the city is located in a very active seismic zone and, coupled with older infrastructure, building standards are doubtful to withstand earthquakes of above magnitude 5 on the Richter scale. According to the vulnerability capacity assessment, many living in Ulaanbaatar also do not have much awareness regarding earthquakes.
Mongolia is also vulnerable to the spread of diseases and epidemics. Both agricultural and wild species transmission of diseases, such as avian influenza, is of serious concern to the people of Mongolia. Avian influenza and other communicable poultry diseases occurred in 41 sub-provinces, killing 679 wild birds. Although the virus transmission to humans has not been problematic as of yet, it is of ultimate importance that the population is aware of how to prevent the spread of the virus. This was particularly evident in the rapid spread of hand, foot and mouth disease in the first half of 2008. By mid- year, at least 3,000 cases had been reported, mainly in children below the age of five.