Mongolia Dzud Appeal 2010

Mongolia Dzud Appeal 2010


During 2009/10, Mongolia faced its most severe winter in nearly five decades. Over 7.8 million head of livestock have died due to the extreme cold and snow, and a lack of fodder triggered by prolonged drought during the previous summer. This cumulative disaster, called dzud in local language, has had a catastrophic impact on families who rely on intensive herding practices for survival.

By the end of April 2010, thick snow continued to blanket 60 percent of Mongolia, measuring up to 61 cm and leaving animals unable to graze for months. Over 217 000 families (769 106 people) have been affected. Over 50 percent of rural Mongolians live in poverty. Families have grown increasingly vulnerable due to the lack of energy sources for heating, warm clothing, food supplies and access to basic services. Fiscal constraints have caused the retraction of welfare benefits such as ‘child money’, upon which many rely to provide for their families.

Unlike sudden onset disasters, the dzud’s impact has escalated over months, forcing an increasingly weakened population to battle for  day-to-day survival with diminishing food stocks, income and health status. Its impacts will further unfold through the spring and summer seasons, as flooding, displacement and mass migration generate further hardship. The Mongolia Dzud Appeal 2010 was launched on 11 May to support Government efforts in responding to the most critical needs. Total funding requirements of USD 18 150 794 are being sought to:

(i) meet emergency needs of the most vulnerable groups and institutions;
(ii) address protracted humanitarian and early recovery needs; and
(iii) strengthen capacity at community and national levels to prepare for and respond to crises.

Challenges facing livelihoods

The livestock sector employs 30 percent of Mongolians and is a core survival strategy for nomadic families that rely entirely on pastureland livestock. Their animals, primarily sheep and goats, are dying rapidly from starvation and the severe conditions brought on by the dzud. Families are losing their direct source of food, fuel from animal by-products and income from the sale of dairy products, cashmere and meat. Women and children have been worst affected.

The sector contributes greatly to gender equality by creating employment for women, while products such as milk play a key role in child nutrition. The magnitude of this winter’s losses is three times greater than the previous most severe dzud. As of the end of April 2010, more than 8 700 families lost all of their animals and nearly 33 000 families lost over half of their flock.

During spring – an essential time of pasture regeneration and livestock birth – challenges will intensify as weakened animals continue to perish and miscarry, thawed carcasses threaten human and animal health and intense snowmelt triggers flooding. Despite significant animal losses, it is believed that the current livestock population exceeds the carrying capacity of pastureland.

Herders lack the basic supplies they need to save their animals, such as fodder, animal feed and veterinary medicines. As experienced during previous and less severe dzuds, the deterioration in livelihoods and food security will result ultimately in deepened levels of poverty and increased migration. Preventing further livestock deaths is a time sensitive challenge. Without rapid support, the most vulnerable herders stand to lose their only means of livelihood.

FAO’s response

Within the framework of the Mongolia Dzud Appeal 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) appealed for USD 5.6 million, to deliver on the most critical needs of dzud-affected herders. Unmet funding requirements amount to USD 4.2 million*. Following the onset of the disaster, FAO set up an Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordination Unit in Mongolia and is leading the efforts of the Agriculture Cluster. FAO’s proposed activities include:

  • delivery of time-critical livestock inputs, such as live animals, shelter materials, feed and  veterinary supplies;
  • provision of production inputs and training for improved fodder production;
  • enhancing capacity and planning at all levels in disaster preparedness and risk reduction for future disasters; and
  • providing coordination support to increase the effectiveness of the Agriculture Cluster response.