While spring conditions slowly set in Mongolia, 20% of the country is still left under a snow blanket, and 23 districts are experiencing white dzud (extremely snowy winter) or very similar circumstances. Because the conditions are unseasonably cold, there are concerns about an iron dzud (freezing rain) emerging in some areas.
"Dzud" is a clinical slow-onset disaster unique to Mongolia in which hot summer drought (resulting in extreme overgrazing) is followed by a severe winter and insufficient hay for winter grazing. This, coupled with heavy snows and freezing temperatures is causing large numbers of animals to die from starvation.
Video credit: World Animal Protection Canada
With temperatures reaching below - 40 °C (-40 °F) during several months each year and heavy snowfalls, Mongolia suffers some of the coldest climate conditions in the world.
Harsh winter conditions of 2015/16 season have resulted in significant loss of livestock and compounded existing strain on thousands of herders across the affected areas. According to the reports, 41% of the country's total herder population has been affected by the severe winter. 858 153 camels, horses, cows, sheep, and goats have so far perished, 9 115 of which due to disease.
Image credit: NEMA&Ministry of Food and Agriculture
The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is seeking US$14.3 million to provide immediate assistance over the next six months in food security, nutrition, protection, agriculture, livelihoods and early recovery. US$6.36 million has so far been secured by the international community to complement the Government of Mongolia’s (GoM) response efforts.
Dzud events have far reaching impact on the Mongolian pastoral herder sector dependent on livestock for food and income. The number of perished animals has abruptly increased from 40 000 in January to 858 100 by April 7.
Image credit: NEMA
Based on previous dzud events, the number of livestock deaths may increase to 1.2 million during the spring as weakened, and starved animals will most likely die in large numbers. The situation could get even worse due to continuing unseasonably cold weather conditions.
The United Nations (UN) is supporting the GoM to ensure the needs of vulnerable rural herder households are met as dzud conditions continue across Mongolia. US$2.4 million has been allocated to response activities through the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). Aid packages will include food, nutrition, protection, agriculture and early recovery, and will complement the broader response effort being carried out by UN Partners, INGOs, and the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS).
As of May 14, the number rose to more than 1 million.
Featured image credit: World Animal Protection Canada