Mongolia: Humanitarian Aid
Mongolia has the harshest climatic conditions of all countries in the world. The short summer is followed by a long winter with temperatures dropping as low as 50 degrees below zero. Almost half of the three million Mongolian population lives in remote regions. A considerable number of these survive thanks to their exclusively pastoral way of life, where cattle is the only source of financial income and the source of 30 % of the family diet. Climatic change and the negative impacts of human activity on the environment have an extreme impact on the herders.
Herder households traditionally had very well developed methods of coping with the harsh climate and extremely demanding conditions of the herder’s way of live. However, these days the increased frequency of juds has considerably reduced their resilience. The jud is a natural phenomenon occurring only in Mongolia. It typically manifests summer drought followed by a particularly hard winter with unusually heavy snow cover, icy winds and abnormally low temperatures of up to 50 degrees below zero. Due to climatic changes and negative impacts of human activity on the environment, including unsustainable management of pastures, juds recur about every four years, while traditionally the jud used to come once every ten years.
During a jud, the local pastures are not capable of producing a sufficient amount of hay. The droughts of the summer are accompanied by steppe fires, then the hard winter that follows prevents the cattle access to pasture due to the amount of snow and icy, which further antagonises the lack of feed. As well as a negative impact on cattle, the jud also impacts the local inhabitants. Due to the heavy snow cover the roads are closed, making it impossible to travel to the nearest regional town where the basic services such as health centres, schools, markets or banks are located. Herder families living hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town find themselves in complete isolation and face a shortage of basic food, heating fuel or efficient winter clothing. A further aspect is the negative psychological impact on the herders due to the traumatising effect of the jud on the family and their livelihood.
The second is access to food for cattle which is the only source of income for herder families. If they were to lose their herd or their numbers were to fall significantly in consequence of the jud, the household in question would be left completely without livelihood and have to resort to negative survival strategies, such as reducing the number of daily meals, debts, hired work for richer herders contributing an absolute minimum towards the survival of the family, taking their children out of school, migration to towns etc.
Aid to herder families stricken by drought and hard winter
Between February and June 2016, in collaboration with Charita ČR, the Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency and the Mongolian Red Cross, People in Need distributed food and financial aid for three thousand stricken families in the affected Dornod, Sukhbaatar, Khentii and Dornogobi provinces. The project was financed by the European Commission.
PIN continues to work with the families of herders on increasing their resilience against future juds. In collaboration with the Italian non-profit organisation ASIA Onlus with the support of the Waldensian Evangelical Church, PIN also encourages mutual solidarity between the wealthier and more vulnerable herder families.