United Nations kick starts response to dzud affected populations in Mongolia

The United Nations in Mongolia is scaling up its emergency response to address the urgent needs of populations affected by the harsh winter locally known as dzud. These interventions, amounting to $2.4 million, are funded by the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) under the rapid response window.

Around 60 per cent of Mongolia’s 339 district have been in dzud or near-dzud condition since December 2015. Dzud is a cyclical slow onset disaster unique to Mongolia. It consists of a summer drought followed by a deterioration of the weather conditions in winter (10 to 350 cm snow thickness, temperatures -40° C to -50° C) and spring during which shortage of pasture and water leads to large scale death of animals. The dzud conditions have been compounded by a prolonged, El Nino induced, drought in the summer of 2015 that resulted in a 40% reduction in wheat harvests and grazing pasture in some areas.

As of 15 February 2016, an estimated 225,788 people (62,719 herder households or 41 per cent of the total herder population) in 211 districts are impacted by adverse weather conditions, including 28,290 children under age 5 and 3,340 expectant mothers. Out of this, an estimated 11,800 herder households with less than 100 animals who reside in the 98 most dzud affected districts are considered particularly vulnerable.

The number of animals perished as a result of the heavy snow fall, severe storms and cold weather conditions jumped 10-fold from 40,000 in January 2016 to 359,981 as of 10 March 2016. Soaring trends indicate that the numbers of deaths may cross 1.2 million during the spring, when weak and starved animals are expected to die in large numbers.

“UN assistance supported by CERF is designed to address the most urgent survival and livelihood needs of 4,390 vulnerable herder households affected by the dzud in Mongolia”, says Ms. Beate Trankmann, UN Resident Coordinator. “The household level assistance complements the Government’s response which focuses on infrastructure and service provision. UN measures are aimed at ensuring that the most vulnerable households can make it through the harsh winter and are protected from an extreme collapse of livelihoods thus averting a wider humanitarian crisis”, she added.

The response is organised in 4 projects to be provided as a package of complementary time-critical interventions including food aid, nutrition, protection, agriculture, and early recovery. The Protection and the Nutrition sector will deliver a package of food, nutrition and basic relief items to facilitate the survival of the most vulnerable herders. The agriculture component aims to protect livelihoods of vulnerable herders who are dependent on their livestock by minimizing additional loss of animal lives and damage to economic assets through fodder provisions. This will be followed by a cash intervention which will ensure that low income households can buy additional warm clothes, heating and cooking fuels, and other products essential for surviving the extreme winter and isolation. The projects will be implemented in the next six months by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with NGOs and government authorities.

The government of Mongolia has already disbursed much of the Emergency funds allocated from its State Reserve. Mr. Tserendash Oyunbaatar, Deputy Prime Minister and head of State Emergency Commission has welcomed international assistance. The head of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Badral Tuvshin said that he “appreciate(s) the coordination efforts of the United Nations to complement the government‘s response”

The CERF grant will cover 17% of the $ 14.3 million estimated overall response requirements addressing both immediate life-saving and other mid-term needs in the four sectors. In addition to the support through the CERF mechanism, $ 4.4 million in immediate assistance is urgently needed to reach the most vulnerable herder households in all 98 dzud affected districts. The Humanitarian Country Team will continue working with the government and partners to advocate for more resources to address life-saving needs of the most vulnerable households.