Red Cross makes emergency appeal for Mongolia as cold threatens herders | Updated: 2017-02-16 17:06

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) announced on Thursday it launched an International Emergency Appeal on the same day to aid thousands of herder families in Mongolia whose livelihoods are at risk from severe winter conditions known as Dzud.

The Dzud – caused by drought in the summer of 2016 and the twin impacts of winter snowstorms and freezing weather – has depleted herders' reserves of hay and fodder and is threatening the lives of millions of livestock in eastern and northern parts of the country. As conditions deteriorate, more than 157,000 people are at risk across 17 of Mongolia's 21 provinces, the IFRC said.

"This is the second successive year that some of these herders have been hit by Dzud," explains Madame Nordov Bolormaa, secretary general of the Mongolian Red Cross. "Livestock is the only source of food, transport and income for almost half of the Mongolian population and we have to act now to help herders survive over the coming months".

According to the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), livestock losses had reached around 42,546 in early February. This figure is expected to grow exponentially in the months ahead when a long harsh spring takes hold after the extremely cold winter. Heavy snowfalls and snowstorms are set to continue through March and temperatures are likely to dip below -35 degrees during the night.

"In spring, animals give birth and when the livestock are already exhausted from the winter they are at high risk without adequate feed, shelter and veterinarian care which does not exist in some remote areas of country," explains Madame Bolormaa. The IFRC appeal aims to raise $654,000 to support the ongoing relief efforts of the Mongolian Red Cross. More than 11,000 of those considered most at risk will be supported for 10 months. Each family will receive an unconditional cash grant of 245,000 Mongolian Tugrik to be used to purchase food, clothing, fodder for their livestock, or for any other priority they see fit.

The appeal will also support a range of health interventions. A "Psychosocial Support Programme", in partnership with Save The Children, will provide emotional support to 2,000 children at boarding schools and living in school dormitories away from their herder parents. Distribution of basic First Aid kits to 1,000 herder households will benefit many communities who lack access to regular and emergency health services. Funds will also be used to prepare communities against future Dzuds. Three hundred portable grass harvesters will be purchased for Mongolian Red Cross branches from where they will be rented to herder teams for hay collection.

"We are concerned that we will see a repeat of last year's Dzud when many herders sold their animals while they were still alive and oversupply of livestock resulted in very low market prices", explains Gwendolyn Pang, head of the IFRC's Country Cluster Support Team in Beijing. "Families with fewer animals to sell are particularly vulnerable. Many will lose their livelihoods and will have no choice but to migrate to slum areas on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and other urban centres where they will face great social and economic hardship".

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