UN and Government of Mongolia Appeal for International Assistance for Mongolia - Winter Disaster - Dzud

The United Nations and Government of Mongolia today launched an international appeal for assistance for herder families stricken by a second consecutive winter disaster. As many as 6 million head of livestock - about 20% of the national herd - could perish during the next four months due to severe winter conditions coming at the heels of prolonged drought in the summer of 2000 and another winter disaster during 1999-2000.
Referred to as dzud in Mongolian, this unfolding winter disaster is being caused by heavy snowfall in some areas and icy conditions in others. Snow from 10-50 cm in depth covered much of the territory of Mongolia as of 10 January 2001, with depths up to 80 cm in some places. These conditions prevent Mongolia's vast herds from grazing on natural vegetation during the winter as customary. The situation is expected to worsen with greater than average snow forecast for February and March.

This situation is resulting in the impoverishment of thousands of herding families. The dzud of 1999-2000 resulted in the death of almost 3 million livestock, or 10% of the national herd. Some 2,400 families lost all of their livestock in 1999-2000. Estimated damages nationwide were US$ 84 million.

Losses this year are expected to be more severe. Speaking at the official launch of the appeal in Ulaanbaatar, the Minister of Defense and Head of the State Emergency Commission, Mr. J. Gurragchaa, said "As of today 100,000 herders with 20 million livestock from 192 counties in 20 provinces are affected by the dzud. As of the 25th of January, some 605,000 animals had already perished. Herders are becoming exhausted. The losses suffered during this dzud will deepen." The hardest hit provinces include Zavhan, Tuv, Huvsgol and Hovd.

The Government of Mongolia requested assistance from the United Nations to deal with the disaster in December 2000. On 9 January 2001 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) dispatched a team of disaster specialist to Mongolia in January 2001. This United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team assisted the Government in assessing the situation and preparing an international appeal for assistance.

(Tragically, two members of UNDAC team together with 7 other representatives of the UN agencies working in Mongolia, the Government of Mongolia and the national and international media were killed when a helicopter carrying an assessment team crashed in Malchin county, Uvs province, on 14 January 2001.)

Based on the findings of the UNDAC team, the Government of Mongolia and United Nations launched an appeal on 30 January 2001 requesting US$ 11,778,857 in assistance for Mongolians suffering from the dzud. Of this total US$ 7,096,609 was requested in cash and US$ 4,682,248 was requested in-kind.

The requested contributions targeted four key sectors: livestock survival (US$ 3,996,027 in cash and US$ 4,682,248 in kind), health, water and sanitation (US$ 2,386,582), nutrition (US$ 608,000), and programme support and capacity building in disaster preparedness (US$ 106,000). The appeal covers a four-month period, from 1 February through 31 May 2001. The funds would be channelled through the appropriate UN agencies and disbursed in consultation with the related Government ministries. These UN agencies include the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Speaking on behalf of the United Nations agencies in Mongolia, the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Saraswathi Menon said "The focus of our appeal are the most vulnerable people of Mongolia who are suffering from the dzud - the herders. In helping to preserve their livelihoods which depend on their livestock, we hope that a significant number of families can be prevented from falling into poverty." The appeal targets herder families with less than 100 head of livestock, as well those in the 73 most critically-affected counties.

For further information, please contact Gordon Johnson or B. Batkhuyag at UNDP Mongolia. Phone: 976-11-327585; Fax: 976-11-326221; E-mail: gordon.johnson@undp.org, batkhuyag@undp.org. or

State Emergency Commission: Phone: 976-11-321860; Fax: 976-11-327373;

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Phone: 976-11-311311 (ext. 251 or 256), Fax: 976-11-322127, E-mail: mongmer@magicnet.mn