Mongolia: Snowfalls appeal No. 07/2001 Final Report


This Final Report is intended for reporting on emergency appeals
The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in 178 countries. For more information:

Launched on: 14th February 2001 for 12 months for CHF 2,864,472 to assist 7,022 families / 35,000 beneficiaries with food and non food items, and an additional 15,000 familes with first aid kits and radios. The operation was extended in March 2002, utilising unspent funding of CHF 703,000 in the "Relief Operation Extension" targeting 4,400 families / 24,200 beneficiaries. This part of the operation was completed in October 2002.

Period covered: 15th February 2001 - 31st October 2002 ; last Operations Update (no. 8) issued 24th July 2002.



The Mongolia Snowfalls 2001 Emergency Appeal was launched as a result of the severe 2000-2001 winter conditions (dzud).

This harsh winter came at a time when risk preparedness and management strategies were almost non-existent. The herding community, which represents between 33-50 of Mongolia's population, was the most affected by the disaster. In addition to the direct impact on animal and human mortality, dzuds undermine pastoral development strategies, and are major causes of rural and urban poverty.

The operation initially aimed to assist 7000 nomadic herding families through the provision of supplementary emergency food assistance and other relief items. An additional 4,400 families were assisted through the Operation Extension.

The initial duration of the operation was 12 months, beginning in February 2001. As the 2001-2002 winter progressed, it became obvious that further assistance was going to be needed as similar conditions affected the southwest and western areas of the country. This gave rise to the Relief Operation Extension which was implemented between June to October 2002.

The overall operation has been implemented over a period of 20 months. The first section of this report will deal with the response to the 2000-2001 winter emergency. This involved two Phases in 2001. The second section of the report covers the 2002 Relief Operation Extension.

The Final Section of the Report is an excerpt from the recent (November 2002) review of the Mongolia Red Cross Society (MRCS) - International Federation cooperation program. This provides an independent view of the impact, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of the 1999-2000, 2000-2001 and 2002 extension, snowfall relief operations.

Red Cross Rethinking its Strategy in Mongolia

Following the previously mentioned review, the Mongolia Red Cross and the International Federation are now rethinking their strategy for responding to this repeated slow onset disaster.

The review found that previous Mongolia Red Cross/International Federation emergency operations have lacked integration with longer-term strategies, and relief practices have lacked innovation in incorporating rehabilitative/developmental elements.

The Mongolia Red Cross Society and the International Federation want to go beyond the traditional 'reactive response' to dzuds towards programmes which promote risk reduction and prevention.

This new approach will take time to come into being.

The Mongolia Red Cross in cooperation with the International Federation is currently in dialogue with its international partners, especially sister Red Cross National Societies, to encourage them to provide longer-term support to the National Society. This dialogue has involved the previously mentioned external review of development and emergency assistance, extensive consultation with all partners during and after the review, a follow up visit from the external reviewer to facilitate a strategic planning workshop, a partnership meeting involving all partners to find a joint way forward.

Meanwhile the current emergency appeal (2003) has incorporated capacity building initiatives aimed at strengthening the capacity of the National Society to mobilise communities to implement risk reduction, and prevention activities and/or post-disaster recovery initiatives at the grassroots level.

Balance of funds

A closing balance of 45,626 CHF is shown in the financial annex to this report. The Federation Secretariat is currently in dialogue with donors regarding the reallocation of these funds - part of which will be utilised to implement the accepted/prioritised review recommendations. The National Society and the delegation is currently negotiating the VAT refund for the operation, which may total USD15,000. If this refund materialises, it will be allocated to the National Society Development Programme.

Section 1: 2000-01 Relief Operation

The Disaster

For the first time in living memory, Mongolia was struck by two consecutive dzuds (in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001).

The Mongolian term dzud denotes any one of a range of winter conditions which threaten livestock survival, such as unusually abundant snowfall ('white dzud'), the formation of an impenetrable ice layer over pastures ('ice dzud'), or a lack of sufficient winter fodder following a summer drought ('black dzud') or due to soil compaction by grazing animals ('trampling zud'). The most significant of the risks faced by herders, severe dzuds historically occur in Mongolia with an average frequency of once every eight years.1

Dzuds impact on the food security of the livestock through the loss of available grass (caused by drought, rodent infestation, overgrazing and heavy snow cover) which severely undermines their ability to build up sufficient reserves of body fat to survive the winter.

With the onset of severe winter conditions in October 2000, which brought lower than normal temperatures along with strong winds and heavy snowfall, large numbers of already weakened animals stood little chance of survival.

The herders rely completely on their animals for their livelihood. Livestock ( horses, yaks, cattle, camels, sheep and goats ) are the main source of food ( meat and dairy products ), provide hides and fiber for shelter, clothing, barter and sale, dung for fuel and are used for transport.

The loss of livestock created significant food security problems and had a major impact on the ability of the herders to survive. The economy of the herders is based on their ability to sell or barter their animals, meat, fibers and hides, enabling them to purchase supplementary food and other essential non-food items, to access health care and to educate their children. The loss of so many animals over the past two years meant they no longer had the ability to provide for their families. The psychological impact on the herders has been immense. Given the close relationship that the herders have with their animals, the loss of even a few is seen as a failure. During this difficult time, a number of suicides were reported, and there has been a migration of herding families who have lost their animals to the urban centres, seeking assistance and a new way of life.

In February 2001, 21 of a total of 22 provinces in Mongolia were affected in some way by the disaster with 13 provinces considered by the government to be seriously affected. By the end of April 2001, the total number of livestock lost during the 2000-2001 winter amounted to over 2.1 million head, and as many as 76,000 herder families / 420,000 people were affected throughout Mongolia.


At the national level the State Emergency Commission ( SEC ) was responsible for the coordination of information and response to the disaster. The close link between the SEC and MRCS ( the Secretary General of MRCS is a member of the committee ) ensured that assistance received through the appeal was carefully coordinated with Government and NGO efforts.

Meetings were also hosted by UNDP involving all the main participants, ensuring that action was properly directed and that there was no overlapping.

At the local level, the Governors of the Aimags, and Presidents of the Soum Assemblies, are often appointed as the Chairmen of the Red Cross Branches. This served in a positive way in the selection of beneficiaries and ensuring fair and efficient distributions.

(pdf* format - 105KB)

For further details please contact:

The Mongolian Red Cross Society in Ulaanbaatar; Phone 976-11-312684; Fax 976-11-323334; email
Richard Grove-Hills, Head of Regional Delegation, Beijing; Phone 8610 65 327 162/3/4/5; Fax 8610 65 327 166.
Aurelia Balpe, Phone 41 22 730 4352; Fax 41 22 733 0395; email

All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.

For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at For longer-term programmes, please refer to the Federation's Annual Appeal.

John Horekens
External Relations

Simon Missiri
Asia Pacific Department

1 Templer et al. 1993