One third of the 2.7 million population of Mongolia leads a nomadic life and depends entirely on livestock for a living. A dry summer followed by a harsh winter often leads to the death of a large number of livestock. During this natural phenomenon known as “Dzud”, temperatures in the winter of 2009-2010 dropped to -50°C across Mongolia. The sparsely populated country is the size of Western Europe with poor transport infrastructure. Providing assistance is a challenge as many families live in their own family compounds which are constantly on the move, with herders seeking better grazing for their animals.
Due to rapid economic growth sparked by a mining boom, many families are now leaving the rural areas and flocking to informal settlements around the capital, Ulaanbaatar, creating a number of social problems. Among other things, there are many fires caused by illegal electrical connections.
In 2012, the European Union provided urgent humanitarian aid and fire prevention training to some 5,600 people living in difficult social conditions as a result of the Dzud. The project was implemented by the Finnish Red Cross and the Mongolian Red Cross, providing shelter support, basic household items, winter clothing and psycho-social care to thousands of poor families.
In 2010, ECHO also committed a total of €2.15 million humanitarian aid to some 46,000 people affected by the Dzud. Initially, assistance addressed the emergency needs of the worst-affected families with food, blankets and warm clothing. Later, assistance was provided to some 40,000 people to secure the survival of the livestock through fodder supplies and fodder storage facilities.
Families forced to move to urban areas to escape the harsh rural conditions received food, health/social assistance and vocational training, so that households could adapt to their new environment.