Multiple Extreme Events including Fire cause National Disaster
According to OCHA-SITREP 478 “Mongolia – Multiple Dzud, OCHA Situation Report No. 9, 18 July 2000” (Ref. OCHA/GVA – 2000/0125, Date: 18 July 2000) the Government of Mongolia on 11 February 2000 appealed to the international community for assistance to assist herders affected by consequences of multiple extreme natural events, including fire.
According to the OCHA report the Mongolian population in 1999 experienced their worst winter since 1968, as a result of a “multiple dzud”. The current situation is the cumulative result of last summer’s drought (“black dzud”) and a winter that began in September with temperatures of minus 43° C producing an impenetrable ice cap that covered huge parts of the landscape (“iron dzud”) and repetitive heavy snowstorms (“white dzud”) throughout the winter. Unusually hot and dry weather, with temperatures exceeding 35° C through late May and early June, caused browning and growth retardation of fresh grass in dzud-affected and some non-dzud affected areas, giving rise to concerns of further drought. In addition, steppe fires that started in Russia in early February have since spread into Northern Mongolia affecting 24 “soums” (districts) in 9 “aimags” (provinces).
The current disaster has impacted approximately 500,000 people (19.1% of Mongolia’s total population) in 13 of 21″aimags”. The impacts from the “multiple dzud” have spread over the entire country with only the East and the “aimag” of Khovd spared. The worst affected “aimags” are Dundgobi, Uvurkhangai, Zavkhan, Uvs, Bayankhongor and Tuv.
According to the figures released by the State Emergency Commission (SEC), on 1 June 2000, 2,399,200 animals have died (7.3 percent of the total national livestock population). This is a significant loss in a country where animal husbandry represents more than 30 percent of the gross domestic product and on which one third of the population directly depends for food, transportation, heating material (animal dung) and purchasing power. This loss has directly resulted in severe socio-economic damage throughout the country.
Even without a further drought or “multiple dzud”, it is expected that many families, particularly amongst the 2,369 families who have suffered a total loss of their livestock, will face shortage of food and heating material throughout the winter of 2000/2001. Furthermore, the carcasses of the decaying animals may contaminate the immediate environment and the nearby water resources posing a potential risk for cholera and other epidemics.