1.  Background to the appeal

 

1.1  Disaster Situation – An Evolving Crisis

 

Mongolian herders experienced the worst winter in the last 30 years. In Mongolian language the term dzud describes a natural disaster that occurs in the cold season (i.e. winter and spring) and represents a threat to human and livestock populations. Dzud is a rather complex phenomena that is mainly caused by natural elements that reduce access to grazing, thus negatively impacting the food security of livestock and human populations. In other words, the term dzud can be described as “livestock famine”, which also represents a high risk of famine for humans in the affected areas.

 

A major contributing factor to the scale and severity of the present disaster was the intense drought (gan) which preceded the 1999/2000 dzud. However, studies suggest that overgrazing and environmental degradation also contributed to the disaster. Both changed the distribution of native grasses over wide regions. There were drastic reductions or disappearance of the types of grasses which were previously abundant. As a result, only the less palatable grasses remained and increased.

Because of last year’s drought, livestock were unable to build up the necessary strength (i.e. calories/fat) to enable them to cope with the harsh winter and spring. In addition, herders were unable to prepare the hay and other types of animal feed that would have helped to mitigate against the consequences of the dzud.

 

The drought affected entire soums (districts), so that all pasture reserves were intensively grazed. Increased migration to less affected areas and increased numbers of livestock and herding households also resulted in congestion on seasonal pastures (e.g. grazing areas that are normally preserved for winter/spring were used during the fall). Increased movements of people and livestock outside their traditional grazing areas also created high grazing pressure around existing water resources, especially near the mechanical wells which are still operational. Access to grazing has become a serious constraint for many herding households – in both the dzud affected and the receiving areas.

 

Overstocking in some areas, which led to environmental degradation, contributed to the disaster. Weak (or virtually non-existant) veterinary services also resulted in declining herd health conditions. Herders from affected areas moved their herds to neighboring non-affected areas causing in congestion on seasonal pastures out of season. There were more animal movement during this winter than normal, of longer distance on average, which further the weakened animals. These increased movements of people and livestock outside their traditional grazing areas created high grazing pressure around existing water resources. In general, access to grazing pastures has become a serious constraint for many herding households – in both the dzud affected and the receiving areas.

 

According to the State Emergency Commission as of the 25 March 2000, the number of dead animals has now almost reached 1.8 million head, excluding losses of newborn animals. 80% of the livestock deaths are concentrated in six severely affected aimags. The extent of the problem varies from soum to soum within those aimags - in some areas, more than 30% of the livestock registered in December 1999 were recorded as death by mid-March. This number is expected to increase during the Spring season (March-May), which are generally considered the most difficult months for the livestock. Snow and cold temperature exacerbated by heavy winds continue to strike some areas, and dust-storms occur frequently. No new grass has commenced to grow yet. The Spring months are also the time when sheep and goats bear young. In their ill-fed condition, many females animals and their young are expected to perish.

 

The last severe dzud, in 1967/8, caused the death of 12% of the livestock. It has been forecast that the 1999/2000 dzud will be more severe, and it is estimated that as many as 5 million livestock could be lost before the growing season begins (i.e. June).

 

Thirteen aimags are now recorded as affected by the dzud. The total population of those 13 affected aimags is 1,1 million people, that is 45% of the population of Mongolia. Of these populations, about half a million are directly or indirectly affected by the dzud.

 

Livestock is essential to every part of herder’s daily life. For most people in the affected areas, their animals are the only source of food, transport, heating materials, and purchasing power (cash/barter), as well as the main means of access to medical services and education for children. Without animals, no dung is available for heating or cooking, and no alternatives such as wood and coal are available in the Gobi and arid steppe areas most affected by the dzud. Herders with less than 100 animals are most vulnerable to further loss of animals, while herders with less than 200 animals may easily drop below the subsistence threshold. There are only very limited agricultural activities (e.g. cropping and vegetable gardening) in most of the affected areas presently, and due to Mongolia’s climate, can only be conducted during a short growing season.

 

Although no good statistics are currently available it is estimated that a significant health and nutrition crisis looms ahead. Families have exhausted food and cash and have no more assets with the death of livestock to meet their basic needs. It is expected that current levels of malnutrition will be exacerbated very rapidly and that rates of morbidity and mortality among vulnerable groups, including children, women, and the elderly will begin to increase. Already some affected areas are reporting increased maternal and infant mortality figures as households are unable to access services or essential medical resources in time. The health system itself is experiencing greater than usual shortfalls in resources and cannot adequately reach many displaced households. Similarly the education system has come under strain with the numbers of dropouts increasing in some areas and in other areas dilapidated facilities being overwhelmed with boarders.

The massive mortality of livestock experienced this year will not only cause severe financial damage to herders, but also to entire provinces and the country as a whole. The existing social welfare system will not be able to deal with the sudden increase in income assistance and food aid requirements, nor the enormous losses in economic productivity. Therefore, immediate/short term assistance needs to be provided to the most affected herders to secure household food security through alternative livelihoods (e.g. like vegetable gardening and animal feed production). In this way, the need for supplementary feeding/food aid requirements and direct financial/income assistance for the human population can be reduced in the mid- to long-term.

 

1.2. Government Response to the Disaster

 

The State Emergency Commission (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. Central and local emergency commissions have been set up to distribute relief aid.

The Government has instructed all soums currently housing internally displaced herders to provide them with free health care. In addition, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Industry have established working groups to manage and coordinate the response to the disaster. By late March, basic emergency supplies (flour, rice, millet, milk powder, tea, candles, matches, felt shoes, gloves and felt) in the value of over US$ 36,000 had been distributed to disaster affected families in the 6 most affected aimags. Over 2,800 tonnes of hay, 1,000 tonnes of fodder and some medical supplies had also been delivered to affected areas from the government reserves, on the condition that it be “repaid” in July 2000. However government funding for a disaster of this magnitude is inadequate to meet the current urgent demands of the affected population.

 

1.3 The United Nations Response to the Disaster

 

In response to the Government's request for international relief assistance, the United Nations Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) fielded two damage and needs assessment missions to the two most affected aimags, with the assistance of the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Adviser for Asia, and representatives from UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF and WHO.The consolidated Needs Assessment Mission Report was presented to the international community in Ulaanbaatar and to the Prime Minister, and was made available on the UN-Mongolia website (www.un-mongolia.mn). The Report constitutes an important basis for this appeal.

 

Both FAO and WFP are fielding at the time of this report damage and needs assessment missions to Mongolia, to provide additional inputs to the planning and the implementation of the relief and rehabilitation operations. Their input will subsequently become a further part of this appeal.

 

An international and a local expert were recruited by the UNDMT to assist in the coordination of the relief response and to assist the Government. More support will be added to handle the expected international response. The UN disaster website was also established to provide information collected by the UNDMT on disaster developments, donations and responses. In late March, UNVs will be mobilised in the field to assist in the monitoring and reporting on the implementation of UN relief operations.

 

WHO (US$5,000) and UNDP (US$30,000) contributed immediate some assistance in response to the Government’s appeal. UNFPA, UNICEF ($50,00) and UNDP are re-programming some of their funds in the near- term to assist the affected areas. UNICEF is requesting emergency loan assistance from its headquarters to meet immediate relief needs. These are to be replenished in the context of this appeal.

 

OCHA has made available an emergency cash grant of US$ 90,000 which includes contributions of US$ 30,000 each from the Government of the United Kingdom and Norway. The UNDMT is implementing the activities related to this support. It is also formulating an action plan for the use of a contribution made by the Danish Government (US$ 30,000).

 

1.4. The International Response

 

The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) launched an international appeal for US$ 497,073 to assist 30,000 beneficiaries in the worst affected aimags with food supplies and winter boots for three months. The Federation also released US$ 60,976 from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for the Procurement of relief supplies. The IFRC has engaged a logistic expert to come to Mongolia for 3 months during their relief operations.

The United States Government provided over Tugrik 136 million (approximately US$ 136,000) for wheat and US$ 25,000 to the Mongolian Red Cross Society in March. The British and Norwegian Governments further provided the International Federation of Red Cross with US$ 50,000 and US$ 55,000 respectively. The Japanese Embassy allocated over US$ 91,000, the Israeli Embassy gave US$ 5,000 and the South Korean Government donated US$ 20,000.

Other important donations include: Canada Fund - US$ 10,000; Mercy Corps International & Nike - US$ 10,000 of Nike clothing; World Vision Mongolia – US$ 40,000; Adventist Development Relief Agency in Mongolia (ADRA) – US$ 90,000; Harrods Group (UK) – US$ 15,000; Save The Children’s Fund (UK) – US$ 40,000. More details on donations can be found on the UN-Mongolia website.

 

The World Bank recently advised that it will reallocate US$ 1,33 million from an existing poverty alleviation project to finance restocking of herds commencing in April.

 


 The Mongolian vocabulary distinguishes between several forms of dzud, depending on the causes, contributing factors and characteristics. For example, "tsagaan (white) dzud" describes the phenomenon when the snowfall is too deep for livestock to reach the grass covered by it; "tumur (iron) dzud" happens when an impenetrable ice-cover forms on the surface of precipitation, also preventing livestock from grazing; "khar (black) dzud" occurs when lack of precipitation in grazing areas leaves livestock without any frozen water supplies, or wells are inaccessible; "tuuvarin or tuurain dzud" describes the phenomenon when crowding and/or migrating of livestock causes overgrazing/rapid depletion of pastureland resources in the affected territory. The term "khavsarsan (combined) dzud" is used when at least two of the above phenomena occur at the same time. Recently a new term has been coined - "davkhar (multiple) dzud", which refers to any of the above dzud variations in combination with a drought ("gan") during the preceding season.

However, dzud is also linked with the complex issues of good governance and natural resource management, thus, it is not only a natural phenomenon. Therefore, formulating appropriate policies and strategy in response to the present situation that will enhance rehabilitation and future disaster preparedness efforts should be given high priority and support.

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