Sixteen million livestock set to perish in Mongolia’s “dzud”

Sixteen million livestock set to perish in Mongolia’s “dzud”
Herders face ruin as Mongolia's worst winter conditions in nearly half a century exact a devastating toll on their animals. / Wion, screenshot
By bne IntelliNews March 21, 2024

As many as 16mn head of livestock could perish in Mongolia’s “dzud” crisis. The astonishing figure, equivalent to around a quarter of the animals herded in the country by the end of last year, is the latest forecast death toll for cattle, goats, horses and other animals that will be lost to the harshest extreme winter weather that the country has experienced in nearly half a century.

The forecast was relayed by an MP, Togtokhsuren Dulamdorj, who said on March 20: “[A group of MPs] listened to information from Deputy Prime Minister Amarsaikhan Sainbuyan about urgent measures needed to solve problems with the mass death of livestock as a result of dzud. There is a preliminary forecast that around 16 million animals will die.”

Earlier this week, Mongolia’s Emergency Operation Centre said that the number of lost livestock in the weather disaster had exceeded 4.7mn. The centre predicted an impact greater than the significant 2010 “dzud” event, which resulted in the loss of 10.3mn livestock and affected 28% of Mongolia’s population.

Canada’s CBC on March 20 reported Olga Dzhumaeva, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross's East Asia delegation, as saying that on a tour of dzud-stricken localities "we were confronted with heart-wrenching scenes, piles of dead animals scattered across the snowy and icy steppes. Devastation. That's the word I can [use]."

She added: "We see the scale of this crisis worsens. So this is the period where we'll see the greatest risk of livestock losses, and the humanitarian needs continue to escalate. Now they're coming out of this harsh winter … and the moment they come out of the winter, they'll have to start preparing for the next winter again."

The extreme weather, with temperatures dropping to -30 C, has covered livestock grazing areas with deep snow and ice and has impacted around three in four of all herder households, according to officials. The livelihoods of herders, who depend on cattle, goats and horses, are under severe threat. 

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an appeal for donations.

“As one of the most active humanitarian actors in the country, the Mongolian Red Cross Society is working tirelessly to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected people together with partners in this difficult time. We are grateful that the IFRC has always been with us, supporting our humanitarian efforts through the years. With this Emergency Appeal, we hope to minimize the impact of the Dzud emergency and support households with longer-term solutions for their lives and livelihoods,” said Bolormaa Nordov, secretary general of the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS).

MRCS is dealing with food scarcity, lack of healthcare access and livelihood destruction in its response to the dzud crisis. Herder families with small children are a particular concern.

The humanitarian response has included the distribution of vital supplies such as warm animal blankets, benefitting 5,100 herder families in urgent need.

“We stand witness to the numerous struggles many herder households face from the loss of their precious livestock to the burdens of financial hardship, limited resources as well as immense pressures on people’s mental and physical health. Yet we see the unwavering hope and resilience of so many families as they battle winter’s wrath with incredible strength. The ongoing livestock deaths, diminishing resources and deteriorating conditions of hundreds of thousands of people in Mongolia this winter is a stark reminder of the urgent need for assistance,” added Dzhumaeva.