In response to the request from the Government of Mongolia, the United Nations team is launching an appeal to the international community for urgent support to the response on the winter emergency in Mongolia. This is a consolidated appeal from the United Nations system that is working in Mongolia. The crisis is in an acute stage and immediate relief assistance is needed in April/May as well as rehabilitation support in the following months.


Mongolian herders are experiencing 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.


During the winter of 1999/2000, snowfalls began earlier than usual, were very heavy and repeated, and the temperatures dropped to abnormally low levels (minus 46 degrees centigrade in some areas). Other factors which contributed to the scale and severity of the present disaster were intense drought in 1999, overstocking and overgrazing leading to environmental degradation, disappearance of previously abundant grasses, reduced animal fat reserves, inadequate hay preparation possibilities during Autumn, and virtually non-existent veterinary services leading to declining herd health conditions. There were more animal movement during this winter than normal, of longer distances on average to pastures outside normal winter grazing areas, which further the weakened animals and created pressure around existing water resources.


According to the State Emergency Commission as of the 25 March 2000, the number of dead animals in the 13 affected aimags (provinces) reached almost 1.8 million, although deaths are mainly concentrated in six severely affected aimags. This number is expected to increase during the Spring birthing months (March-May), which are generally considered the most difficult months for the livestock due to erratic snowfalls, cold temperatures, heavy winds and frequent dust-storms. It has been forecast that as many as 5 million livestock could be lost before the growing season begins in June.


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. 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. Herders with less than 100 animals are most vulnerable to further loss of animals, while herders with less than 200 animals may drop below the subsistence threshold. There are very limited agricultural activities in most of the affected areas, and the growing season is short.


The Mongolian Government response to the disaster is coordinated by the State Emergency Commission (SEC), which works with central and local emergency commissions at the local level to distribute relief aid. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Industry have also established working groups to manage and coordinate the disaster response. Concrete measures have been taken to ensure the immediate delivery of essential food and hay, delivery of relief goods, and to promote rehabilitation activities. However government funding for a disaster of this magnitude is inadequate to meet the current urgent demands of the affected population. In recognition of this, the government requested international relief assistance in February 2000.


The United Nations response includes fielding of damage and needs assessment missions to the two most affected aimags, with the participation of government, UN OCHA, UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO and NGOs. A consolidated Needs Assessment Mission Report based on the mission findings was published in March and placed on the UN-Mongolia disaster website (www.un-mongolia.mn). It is an important basis for this appeal and an important background document.


Both FAO and WFP have fielded assessment missions to Mongolia, and their detailed project profiles, once finalised, will be sent to the donors as an addendum to this appeal. Support experts are being recruited by the UNDMT to assist in the coordination of the relief response, to assist the Government, and to collect and publish information on the disaster. UNVs will be mobilised in the field to monitor and report on the implementation of UN relief operations.


Donations for the relief effort have already been made by WHO, UNDP and UN OCHA (in cooperation with the Governments of Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom). UNFPA, UNICEF and UNDP are re-programming some of their funds to assist the affected areas.


International relief response also includes assistance from the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), the Mongolian Red Cross, Governments of the United States Government, Japan, Canada, Israel, and international NGOs. 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 massive mortality of livestock experienced this year will cause severe socio-economic damage to the whole country. It is an evolving human drama. The existing social welfare system cannot deal with the sudden increase in disaster requirements. Immediate assistance, medium- and long-term rehabilitation programmes are required to help the most affected population to reduce further herd depletion, create alternative livelihoods, improve water supply, secure food security and nutrition, assure basic health and educational services, adjust long-term environmental strategies, and improve emergency information management.


This appeal covers relief and rehabilitation programmes in livestock, food security through agriculture, water supply and pastureland, food security through nutrition, health, education, and coordination and monitoring. It is based on information to date (3 April) and will be suported by additional date assessments over the coming weeks.


 At the aimag (province), soum (district) and bag (village) levels