Ulaanbaatar/Kuala Lumpur, 12 January 2021 – Forecasts of one of the most extreme winters on record in Mongolia have triggered the release of pre-emptive emergency funds in a bid to protect the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable herders, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) announced today. 

Mongolia’s National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring has warned that more than 60 per cent of the country is at risk of an extreme winter, with temperatures forecast to plummet to extreme lows of -50C for days on end.

These extreme winters – known as dzud – threaten the health and livelihoods of thousands of Mongolian herders living in the country’s remote central and southern provinces. Dzud is caused by the double impact of drought in the summer followed by harsh winter conditions. Without summer rain, grass does not grow and millions of farm animals cannot put on enough weight to survive the winter and farmers are unable to grow sufficient harvests.

Mongolian Red Cross Society Secretary General Bolormaa Nordov said:

“Dzuds 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. 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, our capital. This anticipatory action allows us to help some of the most at-risk people before the harsh winter sets in.” 

The unwelcome news of the coming Dzud has triggered the release of nearly 290,000 Swiss francs (about USD314,000) from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund. This will allow the Mongolian Red Cross to support 2,000 herder families in a bid to prevent major stock and economic loss through the distribution of cash grants and animal care kits.

The release of these funds come as part of the IFRC’s Forecast-based Financing approach. Under this approach, IFRC works with scientific partners to combine weather forecasts and risk analyses to develop pre-agreed thresholds that trigger the release of emergency funding with a view to limiting or even outright preventing the adverse consequences of climate hazards like the DzudThis early action is conducted in partnership with other humanitarian actors including the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.  

IFRC’s Regional Forecast-Based Financing Coordinator, Raymond Zingg, said:

“The goal of Forecast-based Financing is to anticipate disasters, prevent their impact as best as possible to reduce human suffering and losses. The key element is to agree in advance to release financial resources if a specific forecast threshold is triggered. 

“Simply waiting for disasters to strike is no longer an option. 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 2010, the Dzud killed more than 11 million animals and thousands of herder families were forced off the land. Mongolia’s Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment has predicted that severe dzuds like the 2010 event will become more frequent, occurring every four to five years instead of every 10.