Red Cross Red Crescent launches Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support Mongolian herders facing severe winter

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Beijing/Geneva, 18 January 2016. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 158,000 Swiss francs (157,686 US dollars) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to assist 1,500 herder families (7,500 people) in Mongolia who are at risk of losing all their livestock to extreme sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Based on the latest assessment report released by the Mongolian Government in early January 2016, 50 soums (districts) in 16 aimags (provinces) are currently categorized as being affected by _dzud_ (the Mongolian term for severe winter conditions), while 120 soums in 20 provinces are facing a winter situation that is very close to _dzud._

Snowfall and snowstorms are expected to continue unabated in the coming weeks with average temperatures of below -25 degrees Celsius during the day and around -40 degrees at night. This will potentially affect more than 965,000 people, especially vulnerable herders. The herders, most of whom are now facing difficult weather conditions and shortage of hay and fodder, are expected to start losing their livestock in the coming weeks. In order to obtain cash to buy food, hay and other necessities many herders have started selling their animals before they perish in the severe weather. However, the oversupply of livestock resulted in very low market prices, forcing herders to sell at abnormally unfavourable prices. This situation will have the worst consequences for vulnerable families with smaller herds.

While this DREF is launched to ensure that immediate humanitarian needs are met in the affected areas, the Mongolian Red Cross Society is anticipating the need for a more comprehensive response. This includes scaling up the distribution of food and essential non-food items and providing longer term livelihoods support as a part of a larger operation. The Red Cross, with support from the IFRC, is preparing an Emergency Appeal for these scale-up actions, which will be launched in the coming days.

“Based on assessments by our National Disaster Response Team, the most vulnerable herders are in desperate need of cash, food and warm clothes to face the challenges of extreme winter conditions,” said Madame Nordov Bolormaa, Secretary General of the Mongolian Red Cross Society.

The herders are facing multiple challenges related to both freezing temperatures and lack of adequate external assistance. With very little to no cash in hand, limited means of transportation and impassable roads covered with thick snow and ice,  many herders are not able to reach urban settlements to buy food, warm clothes, and coal for heating.

The Mongolian National State Emergency Committee has warned that over the coming weeks there is a strong likelihood of a _dzud  _disaster similar to that witnessed in the winter of 2009 – 2010 when snowstorms and extreme cold killed millions of animals, depriving poor herder families in the worst affected areas of their only source of income.

Due to the combination of last summer’s drought and this year’s high livestock numbers, half of the pasture land in the country is estimated not to carry winter grazing that can sustain the animals, particularly through this year’s _dzud. _

The Mongolian Red Cross Society's and IFRC’s response includes both unconditional cash grants and provision of food items to the poorest and most vulnerable herders. Innovative beneficiary communications tools such as TERA (Trilogy Emergency Response Application) are being used to conduct surveys and deliver  life-saving messages to hundreds of thousands people in the remote areas of Mongolia.

For further information, please contact:

In Beijing:

  • Hler Gudjonsson, Regional Communications Delegate, East Asia
  • Tel: Mob: +86 13910096892 | Email: | Twitter: @HlerGudjonsson 

In Kuala Lumpur: 

  • Patrick Fuller, IFRC Asia Pacific communications manager 
  • Tel: +60122308451 | Email: |Twitter: @Pat_Fuller and @IFRCAsiaPacific