Mongolia/East Asia: Cold snap Early Action Final Report (EAP2020MN02) – Mongolia
Summary of the Early Action Protocol (EAP)
For many years, Mongolian herders have struggled with a unique disaster called “dzud1”, a severe winter condition in which large numbers of livestock perish due to malnutrition or direct cold. Mongolia has a high altitude, with a cold and dry climate, and is dominated by an extreme continental climate with long, cold winters and short summers, during which most precipitation falls. As the effects of climate change intensify with each passing year, the frequency of severe winters increases and makes it even more difficult for ranchers who are already busy competing with a harsh climate. Dzud is not only the cause of livestock mortality, but it destroys the livelihoods of herders and significantly harms the general economy and society depending on its magnitude. Unfortunately, the dzud could be the reason for the suicide because when the herdsmen find out that all their cattle that they have cared for all their life perished in one night, they suffer great psychological trauma. Another social problem that follows the dzud is a flow of migrants to urban areas. Herding is a way of life for more than a fifth of Mongolians and is of symbolic importance to the whole country, but now many herders are giving up herding and moving to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, for a fixed salary. Former herders usually settle on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and lack skills other than herding, and they usually end up in low-paying jobs with no social security. Worse still, there are many cases of former shepherds who moved to town became alcoholics or engaged in theft and crime.
The MRCS has been helping herders affected by dzud for many years to save their livelihoods and alleviate suffering and works to improve ways to help herders and reduce the impacts of dzud. From the winter of 2019, with the support of the IFRC and the Climate Center, the MRCS became available to warn vulnerable herders of the impacts of dzud. Using a predefined mechanism, the Early Action Protocol (EAP), the scientific trigger, the dzud risk map developed by NAMEM, the MRCS could allocate humanitarian aid to high-risk areas ahead of dzud strikes.
On December 10, 2020, a dzud risk map was released and 16.5% of the country’s total area was at very high risk while 50.4% was at high risk, which triggered the EAP for Mongolia. The threshold for activating the trigger is when the risk map of the dzud indicates coverage of 20% of the highest risk level over no less than three provinces. In the dzud risk map published on January 2, 2021, eight provinces had more than 20% risk in their areas.
As defined in the EAP document, the MRCS targeted 19 provinces, including Govi-Altai, Dundgovi, Uvurkhangai, Tuv, Bayankhongor, Umnugovi, Khovd, Zavkhan, Arkhangai, Bulgan, Bayan-Ulgii, Uvs, Khuvsgul, Orkhon, Selenge, Dornogovi , Govisumber, Darkhan-Uul, Dornod and assisted 2,000 vulnerable pastoralist households (7,394 people) in these provinces with an unconditional cash grant and livestock nutrition kits. Initial assessments were conducted by MRCS branches in local areas by visiting pastoralist households in high-risk areas to identify actual needs. Assessments showed that herder households are cash-strapped because herders’ source of cash is seasonally available as they sell goat wool in the spring. If they had cash, herders could buy hay and fodder from the nearest vendor (eg in the center of the province). Additionally, herders had generally said that minerals and vitamins from livestock were vital to the herd. In rural areas, livestock vitamins and minerals are scarce and livestock suffer from malnutrition without vitamins and minerals. To elaborate, malnourished cold-stressed livestock cannot digest, even if fed hay or forage. Malnourished livestock must first be supplied with vitamins and minerals to recover their digestive system.