Mercy Corps Helps Mongolians Survive “Dzud” Weather Crisis

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Mongolia aims to mitigate damage to communities and save livestock during coldest winter in years

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Because of dzud, thousands of people are facing severe damage to their livestock and household assets as well as potentially crippling long-term economic setbacks.

With heavy snows and temperatures in some parts of the country reaching as low as minus 67 Fahrenheit (minus 55 Celsius), the global organization Mercy Corps is supporting Mongolians who are enduring extreme winter conditions – known locally as “dzud." Through a grant from United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, team members are providing coordination, logistics and transportation support to ensure that rural communities can access the supplies necessary to survive the winter and protect livestock herds. The effort will benefit nearly 14,000 people in rural areas.

“The livestock sector is the backbone of the Mongolian economy, accounting for roughly 30 percent of all jobs in the country,” says Jennifer Bielman, Mercy Corps Country Director in Mongolia. “Because of dzud, thousands of people are facing severe damage to their livestock and household assets as well as potentially crippling long-term economic setbacks.”

Mercy Corps is working in Mongolia in cooperation with the international community, the Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency and local partners. This effort is the only US-funded response in this crisis.

Dzud occurs on a regular cycle that begins with a low food yield – triggered initially by a summer drought – which often leaves animals under-nourished at the onset of winter. Unusually deep snows and cold temperatures then block their access to pasture while increasing the need for calories and nutrients, ultimately leading to starvation. The intense weather also blocks roads and access to markets and necessary supplies for families wintering with their herds, often far from urban centers. In 2009-2010, dzud killed almost 10 million livestock; in this recent season, nearly 350,000 livestock have already died.

Mercy Corps has been working on a number of initiatives in Mongolia for more than 16 years to help pastoralists and rural entrepreneurs harness opportunities provided by the global economy.

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Katia Riddle
Mercy Corps
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