Mongolia - Snowstorms
OCHA Situation Report No. 4
23 February 2000
The Government of Mongolia requests International Assistance for Herders overwhelmed by devastating Snowstorms
1. A swathe of land stretching across a northwest to southeasterly strip of land in the heart of Mongolia, was severely affected by drought in the Summer of 1999. It led to poor grass conditions, thus depriving herds of the necessary body energy with which to face the winter. Pastures normally used for winter grazing and forage were decimated. Then in mid-September the provinces, or aimags, along the western ridge of the Hangai mountain range were surprised by early snowstorms, bringing as much as a metre of snow to parts of the aimag of Bayanhongor. Twenty four heavy snowstorms have occurred in the southern and western aimags of Mongolia in the course of the present exceptionally harsh winter. Particularly in Uvs, Zavhan, Bayanhongor, Dundgobi and Omnogobi vital livestock are dying; whole herds upon which nomads totally depend for their livelihood have been completely wiped out. 80 soms (counties) in 12 aimags have been designated as emergency sites. The Mongolian Government has stated that the present circumstances represent the worst disaster to beset Mongolia in 30 years. Spring is not expected to arrive until late May or early June.
2. Mongolia is a landlocked country slightly smaller than Alaska, stretching across 1.566 sq. km yet with as few as 2.7 million inhabitants. Although the Government of Mongolia has made substantial efforts to introduce modern industry and economic practices over the past years, Mongolia's economy is still essentially based on agriculture and the breeding of livestock. Livestock and animal products such as meat, butter, wool, hair, hides and furs account for half of Mongolia's output and almost 20 per cent of its exports.
Situation and Damage
3. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reports that some 238,000 people in 11 aimags are affected by the food shortages in the immediate term, and by the loss of their livelihood in the longer term. According to data made available by the Government on 23 February, the number of dead horses, cattle, sheep, goats and camels has increased to 836,100. Many herders have lost 60 to 70 per cent of their livestock. In some provinces, a number of herders lost 98 per cent of their cattle.
4. To date, very limited information has been obtained about the human impact of the disaster. However, it can be expected that the loss of animals will not only lead to a decrease of income of herders and their families but also to an increase in maternal and child morbidity, to outbreaks of disease and to malnutrition. In addition, the loss of animals has had a deep psychological impact on the people.
5. The State Emergency Commission (SEC) is coordinating overall emergency response efforts funded by the Government, the private sector and the public with cash and in-kind (clothes, medicine, food) contributions. The SEC has set out to ensure the immediate delivery of essential food and hay, to oversee this delivery and to promote rehabilitation activities. Special central and local commissions have been set up to distribute aid.
6. In the medium and long term the Government would like to resolve the serious problem posed by steppe rodents, which ruin grass reserved for pasture.
7. The Government has instructed all soms currently housing internally displaced herders to provide medical care free of charge. In addition, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) and the Ministry of Enlightenment have established working groups to manage and coordinate the response to the disaster. Physicians equipped with medical supplies have been dispatched to the worst affected areas.
8. The Mongolian Red Cross Society has launched its own national appeal among its volunteer activists, membership and supporters to assist the affected aimags. To date it has distributed assistance worth MNT 9.7 million (USD 9,000) in the form of warm clothes, food stuffs, candles and matches to 746 households in eight soms of two aimags.
9. The Government of Mongolia has appealed for international assistance to help the people living in disaster-stricken areas. They have stated that the most pressing need during this immediate relief phase is for food stuffs, clothes, medicines, commodity goods, hay and fodder for the livestock, communication sets for relief teams and their transportation. Most of these items can be purchased locally, so cash donations would also be highly welcome in this respect. However, a clear estimate of actual needs has not yet been drawn up. It is expected that quantification will begin in March.
10. On 18 February a meeting of the UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) was convened in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and attended by representatives from UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, FAO, UNFPA, and by several bilateral donors and NGOs, including the Mongolian Red Cross Society. The State Civil Defense Board (SCDB) of the SEC, and the MOHSW of the Mongolian Government also attended. In the course of the meeting, the Government explained the above-mentioned situation in disaster-affected areas and the relief efforts which the Government had undertaken.
11. Given the lack of clarity as to the current distribution and value of relief support, as well as the paucity of information on the present or projected impact of the disaster on children, women, and other vulnerable groups, it was agreed that all existing data on the disaster sites and on planned assistance or that already provided by agencies and organizations within the network of partners known to the UN system should be collected without delay.
12. On behalf of the UNDMT, UNICEF, UNFPA and Save the Children Fund (SCF) will undertake a needs assessment mission to two of the most affected provinces (Dundgobi and Omnogobi) from 24 to 26 February.
13. UNDP has confirmed that an amount of USD 30,000 has been made available from its own resources. WHO has already provided USD 5,000 to the MOHSW. UNICEF and UNFPA are considering providing some resources for drugs and logistics.
14. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has made available an emergency cash grant of USD 30,000. OCHA has also allocated grants of USD 30,000 each from contributions for relief assistance held in reserve by OCHA for the Governments of Norway and the United Kingdom. OCHA also plans to dispatch its Regional Disaster Response Advisor for Asia to Mongolia next week to assist the UNDMT in Ulaanbaatar in coordinationg the UN response in support of the affected population.
15. On 22 February IFRC launched an international appeal for CHF 815,200 (USD 497,073) to assist 30,000 beneficiaries in 22 soms in the worst affected aimags with food supplies (wheat flour and millet) and winter boots for three months. The Federation has released CHF 100,000 (USD 60,976) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for the procurement of relief supplies.
16. OCHA is prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions to be used for immediate relief assistance, in coordination/consultation with relevant organizations in the United Nations system. Funds should be transferred to OCHA account No. CO-590.160.0, Swift code: UBSWCHZ12A at the UBS AG, P.O. Box 2770, CH-1211 Geneva 2, with reference: OCHA - Mongolia - Snowstorms. OCHA provides donors with written confirmation and pertinent details concerning the utilization of the funds contributed.
17. For coordination purposes, donors are requested to inform OCHA Geneva, as indicated below, of bilateral relief missions/pledges/contributions and their corresponding values by item.
18. Any future updates on contributions to this disaster may be found by clicking on Financial Tracking at the top of the page for this disaster on the OCHA Internet Website (http://www.reliefweb.int). Donors are requested to verify this table and inform OCHA Geneva of corrections/additions/values. Donors are encouraged to notify OCHA Geneva of their contributions to this disaster using the OCHA Standardized Contributions Recording Format, available electronically in the above mentioned Financial Tracking Website.
19. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int
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