Quarter million Mongolian families hit by unprecedented ‘dzud’ weather, says IFRC

Quarter million Mongolian families hit by unprecedented ‘dzud’ weather, says IFRC
Around 90% of Mongolia has been impacted by dzud weather. / Taylor Weidman,VanishingCulturesProject cc-sa-3.0
By bne IntelIiNews February 4, 2024

Unprecedented and extreme “dzud” weather conditions—a phenomenon unique to Mongolia—have caused significant humanitarian impacts, affecting 245,005 families across the country so far, the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a report released on February 2.

As a result of dzud, Mongolia’s number of livestock losses increased from 49,000 in November to 284,242 as of January 26, the report said.

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.

Since early November, with around 90% of Mongolia impacted by dzud weather, 18,859 herder families (67,892 people) had opted for the Otor Movement, according to the IFRC.

“As of January 2024, out of all the families on the Otor Movement, 7,570 families moved to the state-protected area (the government is using its last pasture resort where settlement is prohibited because there are endangered plants and animals under State protection from extinction), 2,322 moved to other provinces, 4,303 families have been moving within their province, 2,907 are to the border, 1,047 are to the provincial border (in and out between 2 provinces), and only 710 families are in soum borders,” the report said.

The Otor movement is beneficial for livestock to access pasture; however, said the IFRC, it requires “tremendous efforts from herder families to frequently move from one place to another, forcing them to live in roughly built shelters, such as without a floor or in a truck, isolating them from basic services and staying connected with their families when left behind.

“Therefore, it is the winter coping mechanism for herder communities that has been used in the past decade. However, the intensity of the situation is impacting those on the Otor Movement more than in previous years, and the number of people on the Otor Movement is higher than in the previous year.”

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 report also observed that the cost of hay and fodder has been surging as a result of both inflation and availability, as well as fuel price increases. “For instance, a sack of hay rose from MNT [Mongolian tughrik] 5,000 [$1.47] in September 2023 to MNT 18,000 in January 2024 (360 per cent inflation), and a bag of fodder from MNT 8,000 to MNT 32,000 (400 per cent inflation),” it said.