As mass livestock deaths threaten Mongolia’s nomadic culture, some herders are abandoning their traditional way of life.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has provided emergency funds for Mongolia to protect the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of herders after the national weather agency forecast the country was facing one of its most extreme winters on record.
Mongolia’s National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring has warned that more than 60 percent of the country is at risk of an extreme winter, with temperatures forecast to plummet to extreme lows of minus (-) 50 degrees Celsius for days on end.
The IFRC says it has released nearly 290,000 Swiss francs ($314,000) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund – sufficient to help 2,000 herding families with cash grants and animal care kits
“Dzuds [severe winters] are devastating for the herder families who rely on their animals for almost everything, whether it’s meat and milk for food, or the cashmere and skins they sell to buy supplies or pay school fees,” Mongolian Red Cross Society Secretary General Bolormaa Nordov said in a statement on Tuesday. “Losing their animals mean they can quickly fall into poverty. Without support, extreme winter brings misery, hunger and hardship for thousands of families, forcing many to move to squatter settlements outside Ulaanbaatar.”
Mongolia’s extreme winters threaten the health and livelihoods of thousands of herders living in the country’s remote central and southern provinces. The phenomenon is caused not only by the harsh winter cold but by drought during the summer. Without rain, grass does not grow and farmers are unable to make enough hay to feed their farm animals and help them put on the weight that will help them survive the winter.
The funds being released to Mongolia are part of the IFRC’s Forecast-based Financing under which it works with scientific partners to combine weather forecasts and risk analyses so that it can provide funding early and help mitigate or even prevent climate-related disasters.
“Simply waiting for disasters to strike is no longer an option,” said Raymond Zingg, the IFRC’s Regional Forecast-Based Financing Coordinator. “Climate change is bringing more frequent and severe disasters and our anticipatory action approach is helping communities move from reacting after extreme weather events to preparing before these emergencies.”
In the last extreme winter in 2010, more than 11 million animals were killed and thousands of herder families forced off the land.
Mongolia’s Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment has predicted that these events will become more frequent, occurring every four to five years instead of every 10.