Mongolia’s livestock losses top half a million in devastating ‘dzud’

Mongolia’s livestock losses top half a million in devastating ‘dzud’
This winter's dzud — a phenomenon unique to Mongolia — has caused a crisis in the animal husbandry sector. / IBolat on Unsplash
By bne IntelliNews February 15, 2024

The Mongolian government has put the state on a high level of preparedness for disaster protection at the national level, as decided at a meeting on February 14. 

The decision was made based on the extreme cold winter, known as a dzud — a phenomenon unique to Mongolia — which has caused a crisis in the animal husbandry sector.

There have been high numbers of animal deaths in the Sukhbaatar, Khentii, Dornogovi, Arkhangai and Dornod provinces in particular. As of February 10, 508,039 heads of livestock had died in the country, a government statement said. 

Prime Minister L. Oyun-Erdene ordered all necessary measures to be taken to overcome the problems in the livestock sector at the meeting on February 14. 

Orders were also given to evacuate households that may be affected by flash floods. clear snow-covered roads and passes, and to help herdsmen. 

The Mongolian authorities are working with international organisations and foreign donors to include herders in early detection and diagnosis, carry out surveys of herders who have lost their source of livelihood and have no livestock, and include them in livestock, social security and welfare projects and programme. 

According to the Information Institute of Water, Climate and Environment Research, as of February 10, more than 80% of the country was under snow. 

Earlier in February, the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said the dzud had affected 245,005 families across the country. 

Many herders, it added, had to resort to the migratory Otor Movement as their main coping mechanism. The Otor Movement is a nomadic practice of domestic herders migrating to seek pasture. It occurs throughout the country, but this year it is affecting many more families, including those who were not prepared for it.

The report also noted several other factors that have been contributing to humanitarian impacts for herder households this year.

A concurrent fuel shortage between early November and December across the country hindered herders from transportation for hay and fodder supply, which did not happen in previous years, it said.

The report also pointed to how, as of December, inflation was a high 8.6% in Mongolia, with a 14.4% increase in prices for food products, soft drinks, and mineral water, a 5.5% increase in housing services, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels, and a 7.6% increase in medicines and medical services. Inflation has particularly reduced the buying power of herder households, as their main asset is livestock. The cost of hay and fodder has been surging as a result of both inflation and availability, as well as fuel price increases.