It may rhyme with "dud," but it packs a deadly wallop: A dzud (pronounced 'ZUHD) is an extreme weather phenomenon unique to Mongolia that's characterized by a summer drought and then a prolonged winter of heavy snow and temperatures of minus 40 to minus 59 degrees Fahrenheit. A dzud typically happens once every 12 years, but it has struck for the second consecutive year this winter, and it's putting the livelihoods of more than 150,000 nomadic herders and family members at risk. The dzud last year killed more than 1 million livestock, which are the only source of food, transport, and outside income for almost half of Mongolia's population of 3 million, the Red Cross said last week, as it launched an emergency appeal.
More than 40,000 cows and other livestock have already died this time, a figure that's expected to jump in the freezing months ahead and into spring when animals are still weak. Many herder families will lose their livestock and livelihoods "and will have no choice but to migrate to the slum areas on the outskirts of [the capital, Ulaanbaatar] and other urban centers where they will face great social and economic hardship," said the head of the Beijing office of the International Federation of Red Cross. The Red Cross said 70% of the country is covered by snow, and 157,000 people belonging to herder households in 17 of Mongolia's 21 provinces are at risk. The agency appealed for $650,000 to help 2,740 of the most at-risk families, reports the AP. (Read more Mongolia stories.)