Focus on Mongolia: When Dzuds Force Migration

©Alessandro Grassani, 2011

By Daria Mokhnacheva, Mark Koski, with Joshua Hart

Mongolia, the 2013 Global Host of World Environment Day, suffers from severe environmental effects from repeated 'dzuds', (complex natural disasters involving summer drought followed by harsh winters with extreme temperatures and heavy snowfall). Dzuds have undermined the livelihoods of rural populations over the last decades and forced many to move to urban centers or mining areas as a last survival option.

In response, IOM has completed projects in Emergency Migration Management and Disaster Relief, including a Displaced Rural Herder Communities Response Assessment and Intentions Survey following the 2009-2010 dzud, and supported the government of Mongolia in contingency planning for future disaster scenarios.

In recognition of Environment Day, IOM has invited photographer Alessandro Grassani to showcase his works on environmental migration titled ‘Environmental Migrants: The Last Illusion’. Alessandro has worked in Mongolia documenting the environmental stresses on the rural Mongolians and the impact on their livelihoods.

In the above photo, 29-year-old Erdene hauls a sheep lost for the dzud to a small burial ground close to their yurt (gher). In Mongolia's Arkhangai province, the Tsamba family lives on the edge, struggling through harsh winters alongside their herd of sheep. Severe winter conditions, known as dzud, have been responsible for the deaths of half the family's once 2,000-strong herd over the past three winters. Recently, in search of warmer pastures, the Tsambas moved from Bulgan province in the north to this region near a central Mongolian village called Ulziit.

For more, please visit Alessandro's website to see more of his outstanding work

Read more on Mongolia Dzud: Displaced rural herder communities response assessment and intentions survey, IOM Mongolia, 2010