Mongolia: Severe Winter Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) n° MDRMN006


A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Dzud (Mongolian term for a severe winter), which is a slow onset winter condition has now been affecting some 157,000 people (37,000 herder households) across 17 out of 21 provinces in Mongolia. A drought during the summer of 2016 has depleted herders’ reserves of hay and fodder in the eastern and northern parts of the country putting at risk millions of livestock which are the only source of food, transport and income for almost half of the Mongolian population. Multipurpose unconditional cash grants to support life-saving basic needs, emergency agricultural inputs and first aid kits have been identified as priority needs by the Mongolia National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other humanitarian actors.

On 20 December 2016 following the verbal request on 15 December 2016, the Deputy Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government of Mongolia requested humanitarian actors to provide assistance to the dzud affected herders in Mongolia. Afterwards, the government sent official letters to the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) and other humanitarian actors in country to request international assistance for the most vulnerable herder households who are experiencing extreme winter conditions.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has established a task force (from January to May) to coordinate the humanitarian actors’ response to the harsh winter conditions. MRCS is one of the members of this task force amongst the humanitarian actors together with UN Mongolia.

The dzud of 2015-2016 was particularly harsh and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in support of MRCS launched an operation to support the affected communities. Currently, 127 soums (townships) in 17 aimags (provinces) and two Ulaanbaatar districts, which is around 35 per cent of the total number of soums2 in country, are starting to experience hardship. The weather forecast predicts that temperatures in some areas could fall to between -40 and -50 degrees Celsius in early February. Continuous snowfall throughout January and expected snowfall in coming February and March will certainly exacerbate the adverse situation in which thousands of migrating herders can find themselves in weeks to come. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) estimates that it is 82 per cent prepared in terms of hay and fodder at aimag3 level, but they also estimate that the preparedness level in soums is less than 70 per cent due to the budgetary constraints at the local level.

Shortage of pasture leads to livestock loss and in some areas, as of 18 January, NEMA has reported already 25,831 livestock loss. Given the developing situation this figure is expected to grow exponentially in the coming months when a long harsh spring takes over the extremely cold winter. In spring time when animals give birth to young off springs and when the livestock is already exhausted throughout the winter, they are in high risk of death without adequate feed, shelter and veterinarian care which does not exist in remote areas of country.

Approximately 16,000 households (HHs) (ten per cent of total number of HH with livestock) with some seven (7) million livestock has to move to new pasture lands within their or neighbouring provinces that will create create further pressure on the scarce local resources of grass, hay and fodder; this is locally named otor4 as households carry scaled down versions of traditional ger during otor for a simple transportation. Livestock is being affected by animal diseases and as a result, those areas are quarantined, prohibiting animals to move from those locations. Hay and fodder are widely available at the local markets, brought from other parts of Mongolia, but many vulnerable herders lack cash to buy it to salvage their livestock.

There are approximately 2,500 pregnant women, 26,000 children and 8,000 elderly people who are living in winter pastures and they are the most vulnerable groups that will be targeted to receive support5 .
According to forecasts from the Mongolian Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment, the heavy snowfalls and snowstorms are expected to continue through March. Average temperatures below -20-30 degrees Celsius during daytime and below -35 degrees during the night are still expected in the coming weeks. In the northern part of Mongolia, Uvs is one of the provinces targeted within this plan of action, that will experience temperatures of below -40 degrees Celsius and daytime temperatures below -35 degrees Celsius.

In December and January sharp and short increases of daytime temperatures formed a layer of hard ice which covers pastures in many areas which make it difficult for animals to scratch down to the grass. This leads to mild to severe injuries to livestock, deteriorating health and eventually leading to death in spring. The livestock death toll tends to increase significantly during spring months.

Last year in mid-winter, dzud disaster was slowly developing and the lowest temperatures were reported in January. However, the death toll of the livestock was very low, equal to 118,400 deaths. The livestock health started to weaken and the death toll was raised to 1,039,900 as of April and further increased to 1,236,700 in June. Therefore, in addition to extreme winter, long and harsh spring is the season when higher deaths of livestock are registered. The table below shows the livestock death toll of 2016 by months.