Devastating Mongolian Winter: Dzud

Statue of Buhdda in Ulaan-Bataar.

Mongolia is in the grips of a deadly Dzud right now. Below I have copied an explanation of what Dzud means from Wikipedia.

A zud or dzud (Mongolian: Зуд) is a Mongolian term for an extremely snowy winter in which livestock are unable to find fodder through the snow cover, and large numbers of animals die due to starvation and the cold. The term is also used for other meteorological conditions, especially in winter, that make livestock grazing impossible.

Locals sometimes differentiate between black, white, and iron/ice zuds. The black zud is caused by sparse food in summer and a cold winter in which many animals die of starvation. The white zud is caused by very heavy snow fall, which makes it impossible for the livestock to feed on the otherwise accessible frozen grass, hence they too starve. The iron/ice zud is brought about by rain which freezes and covers the land in ice hindering the animals from feeding on grass or herbs.

It is not uncommon for zuds to kill over one million head of livestock in a single winter. A record was set in 1944, with almost 7 million head of livestock lost in a single winter.[1] In 1999/2000, 2000/2001 and 2001/2002, Mongolia was hit by three zuds in a row, in which a combined number of 11 million animals were lost.[2].

From late 2009 into early 2010, 80% of the country’s territory was covered with a snow blanket of 20-60 centimeters, and 198 sums of 19 aimags were plagued by harsh “white zud”[3]. In Uvs aimag (an aimag is like a province) extreme cold (night’s temperature of minus 40 to 48 C) was staying for almost 50 days[4]. Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry reported 2,127,393 heads of livestock were lost as of February 9, 2010 (188,270 horse, cattle, camel and 1,939,123 goat and sheep)[3]. The agriculture ministry predicted that livestock losses might reach 4 million until the end of winter[5]

I was in Mongolia in the summer of 2002, and saw the after math of three years of Dzuds in a row.  There were bones littering the landscape everywhere. Currently they are estimating that Mongolia will lose ten percent of it’s livestock, many herders will lose their entire herd of animals. The major news media has not picked up on this catastrophe. Many nomadic herdsman are stranded far from help and in danger of starvation. Mongolian herders, of which there are over one million, continue to live in felt tents, called gers, which are heated by coal burning stoves. That is all that is between them and the Steppe wind and temperatures in the – 20’s to – 30’s. If they run out of coal or food well, you can imagine the outcome. There are already reports of children who have starved to death. Winter is a long time from over there. Please be aware of the devastation happening in Mongolia and pray for health and safety for the Mongolians, and most importantly that they would turn to God in the midst of these extreme circumstances.

Here is a link to a report on Mongolia’s current Dzud from UNICEF:

As far as I can tell, UNICEF is one of the few organizations offering aid to Mongolia. If you feel led, please contribute!


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