OCHA Situation Report No. 6
Mongolia - Snowstorms
15 March 2000
The UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) in Mongolia reports on assessment missions to the worst affected areas
Situation and Damage
1. Mongolia is suffering from an extreme climate disaster, known as a 'multiple dzud', which is the cumulative result of last summer's drought, a winter which began in September and has been the coldest for 30 years, repetitive heavy snowstorms and years of pastoral degradation. Animal husbandry is the sole means of subsistence for herders and their families, providing them with food, materials for manufacturing clothes and shoes, an income, a means of transport and valuable fuel for heating and cooking. The massive losses of livestock have had a shattering effect on their daily lives. Since Mongolia's economy is essentially based on animal husbandry, the present dying-off of whole herds in vast stretches of Mongolia is also a disaster for domestic production and for the country's export economy.
2. According to the figures given out by the State Emergency Commission (SEC), on 6 March 2000, over 1.4 million of 33.5 million head of livestock registered in December 1999 (comprised of 15 million sheep, 10.5 million goats, 3.7 million cattle, 3 million horses and 500,000 camels) have now perished as a result of the multiple dzud, in 13 aimags, or provinces, of Mongolia. The mass death of livestock has directly affected 500,000 people or approximately 20% of the country's total population of 2.7 million. 13,170 people with 2.2 million head of animals have moved to pastures outside of their normal grazing areas, placing an additional burden on the areas not directly affected by the disaster. Dundgobi, Ovorkhangai, Uvs, Zavkhanto and Bayankhongor are the five worst affected aimags, in descending order.
3. The seriousness of the disaster shows no signs of abating, as pregnant animals frequently miscarry in such harsh conditions and the prospect of newborn animals surviving is very limited. It is expected that livestock will continue to die, as hay and fodder are in short supply and further snowfall and strong dust storms are expected in March and April.
4. The SEC is coordinating the overall emergency response efforts in the country. It has taken concrete measures to ensure the immediate delivery of essential food and hay, to oversee delivery of relief goods and to promote rehabilitation activities. By late February, Government reserves of over 2,800 tonnes of hay, 1,000 tonnes of fodder and some medical supplies had been delivered to affected areas.
5. The Mongolian Government issued an appeal for international assistance on 11 February 2000, and is holding discussions with the UNDMT in Ulaanbaatar over the launch of a UN Inter-Agency Appeal for further international assistance.
6. The Government of Mongolia has stated that the most pressing need during this immediate relief phase is for foodstuffs, clothes, medicines, commodity goods, hay and fodder for the livestock, and communication sets for relief teams. Most of these items can be purchased locally. The Government has also drawn attention to the lack of financial resources to cover costs incurred by transportation of relief items.
Findings of the UN inter-agency mission (para. 7.-12.)
7. From 1 to 4 March, a UN inter-agency mission was fielded to the provinces of Ovorkhangai and Tuv to assess the disaster situation and to identify areas for emergency assistance. The team was accompanied by representatives from the Mongolian Government and NGOs. The mission report states that on-going national and international relief assistance have so far failed to meet the most urgent relief needs of the affected population. It is anticipated that widespread malnutrition and even large-scale starvation will occur amongst the affected population if food aid is not made available from April/May onwards.
8. The report details how normal rural life and the Mongolian economy have been completely disrupted by the dzud. A great number of herders will possess fewer than 100 animals by spring and will be reduced to living beneath the poverty line. If further animal losses are to be avoided, immediate action must be taken to deliver animal feed and mineral supplements and to lay on veterinary services in areas where herds are not yet beyond help.
9. Only isolated cases of acute food shortages have been reported to date, but loss of livestock and the exhaustion of food reserves will certainly lead to a severe food shortfall in May 2000. It is predicted that the famine will continue for at least the next twelve months and probably longer. Monitoring of the nutritional situation and provision of food aid to the most vulnerable members of the population are imperative.
10. The disaster is having a significant impact on people's physical and psychological health. With the depletion in food supplies people will become more susceptible to infections. In addition, they have no means of transport to health facilities and in any case these facilities lack standard medical equipment including drugs and vitamins and midwifery equipment.
11. Herders can no longer afford stationery or walking boots for their children, who are dropping out of school at an alarming rate. Also, school hostels are short of blankets, sheets and medicines, and students often stay home to help care for dwindling livestock.
12. Transport of large quantities of relief goods is restricted by the shortage of horses and petrol.
13. The complete mission report and other related information are available on the UNDMT Ulaanbaatar Website at http://www.un-mongolia.mn/news/disaster/index.html
14. On the basis of the findings of the UN fact-finding mission to Dundgobi led by UNICEF and UNFPA from 24 to 27 February and the inter-agency assessment mission fielded from 1 to 4 March with the participation of the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Advisor for Asia, the UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) in Ulaanbaatar intends to launch a UN Inter-Agency Appeal for international assistance to help the population in the worst affected provinces, in close collaboration with the SEC. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is in close contact with UN Resident Coordinator a.i. in Ulaanbaatar to finalize the Appeal.
15. On 10 March FAO issued a special alert that the food situation amongst vulnerable groups including women and children, could deteriorate appreciably in the next few months, particularly as essential winter food reserves of dried meat, milk and dairy products, become depleted and that there is urgent need to provide surviving animals with supplementary feed. FAO is organizing a field mission by a livestock expert in the near future.
16. As of 9 March, approximately USD 72,000 have been donated in response to the international appeal for CHF 815,200 (approx. USD 500,000) launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on 22 February. On the basis of these donations the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) has purchased winter boots, and 160 metric tonnes of basic foodstuffs for 2,000 herder families.
17. The United States contributed USD 25,000 for humanitarian assistance to the MRCS and Finland donated FIM 150,000 (approx. USD 25,000) to the IFRC. The United Kingdom extended a cash grant of GBP 32,000 (approx. USD 52,000) to the IFRC in addition to USD 30,000 channelled through OCHA. Japan provided USD 45,800 through its Root of Grass programme. Germany is willing to donate USD 13,000 and Denmark is ready to contribute some USD 30,000. The Canada Fund has given USD 10,000 and intends to make a further, in-kind, contribution. World Vision Mongolia and the Adventist Development Relief Agency in Mongolia have committed to deliver aid to the affected population to the value of USD 40,000 and USD 60,000 respectively.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. 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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