Between 1 to 4 April 2015, Mongolia was hit by devastating blizzards with heavy snowfall. This happened at a time when people were least expecting such a devastating disaster, since in April, theoretically, it is already Spring in Mongolia. Thus, most travellers, particularly nomads, after long winter, have started moving with their livestock to better grazing places.
When the disaster hit, many people were caught up either on the roads as they were travelling, some others in very isolated places while camping. It is estimated that, depending on locations, the snowstorm fell covering the earth between 40 cm to more than 2 metres height. Consequently, many roads not only became of no use but could also hardly be found, making it almost impossible to reach out to affected areas. Also, with electricity and communications cut off in many of these places, the devastating news reached the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)’s main office in Ulaanbaatar only some days later. And as of now, the clear picture of the destruction is still yet to be well known because it is only now that details are slowly emerging.
As soon as NEMA got reliable information, they rescued hundreds of people especially in cities, towns and villages wherein the Agency is relatively well equipped and organised. At this stage, most of those rescued were mainly travellers between cities because they were quite easily located and found. But most pastoralists could not be found since they usually move within large steppes of Mongolia. Up to this day, they remain stuck in isolated places.
Currently, Caritas Mongolia has 4 staff members on the field. But considering the remoteness and lack of means at the Uvs Provincial level, they have assisted the Provincial Emergency Department with fuel to clear up some part of the roads to be able to reach out to some of the struck households. They have also provided tools such as working gloves, pickaxes as well as distributed coal, firewood to vulnerable households for home heating purpose, and hay for livestock.
They have moved 2 staff members from Uvurkhangai to Uvs, considering the urgent need at the later location. They will continue studying possibilities of reaching out to those still isolated in the deep steppes. As it stands now, the Provincial NEMA is the only entity dealing and responding to the crisis. Caritas Mongolia appears to be, so far, the only NGO-Partner of NEMA.