Concerns grow over extremely severe winter weather conditions
25 January 2010 – Mongolia is currently threatened by a “Dzud”, which is a multiple natural disaster consisting of a summer drought producing small stockpiling of fodder, followed by very heavy winter snow and lower than normal temperatures.
Heavy and continuous snowfall and blizzards have resulted in a sharp fall in daily temperatures - dropping to below -40°Celsius in 19 out of a total of 21 ‘aimags’ (provinces) in Mongolia. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the extreme cold and heavy snow have already caused the death of more than one million livestock, worsening food security and predicted subsequently to result in a deepening of poverty and increased internal rural-urban migration for many families. According to the World Bank, livestock herding today, accounts for around 35% of employment in Mongolia.
In addition to a concern for the situation of isolated herding families, the agencies making up the United Nations Team are assessing the situation of the poor, particularly those living in the 94 soums (villages) considered to be most affected and inaccessible. “The poor did not have the resources to stockpile food or fuel for heating and the supplies in the now inaccessible village as a whole are stretched”, said Rana Flowers, the Resident Coordinator a.i. in Mongolia. “The UNagencies have mobilized to assess the situation and coordinate our efforts to reach the most affected populations. In addition to the impact this is having on livelihoods now and into the future, we are worried about the immediate plight of the isolated population. Among health concerns are pregnant women cut off from facilities and trained care (three women have reportedly already died in childbirth); increases in ARI and pneumonia in the light of the H1N1 in the country among children and pregnant women; and malnutrition levels with lowering levels of access to food and nutrition in affected areas”, she added.
In addition, children who have been ordered to remain in dormitories due to the danger they would face trying to travel to their families in such conditions, are living with limited and extremely poor heat and limited food supplies in many schools. There are approximately 22,200 children in 265 dormitories in need of assistance.
In the last dzud of 2001, not considered to be as severe as the current 2010 experience, an increase in malnutrition and acute infections of children and pregnant mothers were documented. The plight of populations in the post-dzud period which lasts from late February to early spring is also a period of concern with food supplies having been exhausted and the animal supply severely depleted, and the risk of disease heightened. The trauma of losing livelihoods results in families and children at high risk of developing extreme fatigue and psychological stress.
The Government has appealed to the donor community for food, flour, rice, medicines and equipment, candles, heating supplies, warm clothing, as well as for funding to buy and deliver fodder for livestock. The United Nations in Mongolia was formally requested to coordinate all donor contributions.
The United Nations agencies and specialized agencies actively contributing to the relief efforts in Mongolia include FAO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO and UN-HABITAT.
Rana Flowers, Resident Coordinator a.i and UNICEF Representative, phone: +976 11 326221