Education in Rural Mongolia
After the collapse of socialism in the late 80s and early 90s, education for rural Mongolian children suffered due to a lack of financing for the country’s rural schools. Fortunately, changes in government policy and assistance from NGOs over the last 15-20 years have slowly but surely improved education in rural Mongolia.

Poverty Among Mongolian Herders

As of 2021, about 31% of Mongolia’s population lived in rural areas and as much as 40% of the population lives a herding lifestyle. In 2020, the World Bank pegged Mongolia’s rural poverty rate at 31%, with herders accounting for three-fifths of the rural poor.

Rural Education Issues

While basic education in Mongolia (grades 1 through 12) is free under the country’s constitution, attending school can be difficult for rural families.

Herder families struggle because they move around several times a year to find pastures for their herds. As such, many children move into dormitories at boarding schools. During Mongolia’s socialist era, the country was able to establish a well-functioning and convenient boarding school system for rural children, but after the collapse of socialism, authorities neglected rural development, which resulted in poorly maintained boarding schools.

Between 1990 and 1992, “public spending on education as a share of GDP” decreased by close to 50%, many rural schools suffered bankruptcy and many educators abandoned their professions due to lack of payment.

Because of financial neglect, about one-fifth of dormitories do not have proper heating and lack water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, according to data from 2015. For example, a dorm in Tarialan soum (a part of a province) in Northwest Mongolia did not have a single running toilet, so students had to use a “dirty, cold, bad-smelling” pit latrine outside, with no way to wash their hands with clean water. In 2014, UNICEF established indoor toilets and hygiene facilities in the dormitory.

Another problem with education in Mongolia is that many teachers in rural schools graduate from “low-quality private teacher training institutes,” making them underqualified for teaching.

Rural Mongolians also have low access to early childhood education (ECE) services. While progress has been visible over the last few decades, herder children’s access to ECE services remained low as of 2016. According to a UNICEF fact sheet from 2020, ECE attendance is 1.5 to 2.2 times lower among 2-4-year-olds in rural areas than in urban ones and 19% to 26% lower among children aged 5.

These issues contribute to a gap in education quality between rural and urban schools. Due to high dropouts in the mid-90s, in 2013, the level of literacy among males aged 15-24 stood at 98.4% in urban areas, but dropped to 88.2% in rural areas. The percentage of out-of-school primary school children in 2018 stood at 5% in rural areas compared to 2% in urban areas and children from herder households accounted for around 68% of out-of-school children in 2013/2014.

Improving Facilities

To improve access to education in rural Mongolia, the government built 37 new dormitories across the country between 2014 and 2017 and planned to create an additional 19 between 2018 and 2019. In 2015, Mongolia established specific standards for WASH facilities in schools and dorms to improve conditions.

In addition, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a grant in 2015 to renovate 12 dormitories in the Govi-Altai, Uvs and Zavkhan aimags (provinces) in western Mongolia, as a part of the Improving School Dormitory Environment for Primary Students in Western Region Project. The renovations included insulating buildings, installing “safe electric systems” and establishing more WASH facilities.

Supporting Teachers

Mongolia’s government has worked since 2006 to enhance financial support for rural teachers. The 2006 and 2016 amendments to the Law on Education give financial support to teachers in rural schools and kindergartens. Furthermore, a “teacher salary reform” in 2007 helped to improve the income inequalities between rural and urban teachers.

Outside of the government, the World Bank created the Rural Education and Development (READ) Project (2007-2013) to improve the standard of education in rural schools. The training of educators and principals formed one of the project’s objectives. A total of 4,144 rural primary educators and 383 school directors received training to improve teaching skills and strategies. The project also established a “local professional development network” with 95 main schools and 178 mentor educators.

Enhancing Access to Early Childhood Education

To provide ECE services for rural Mongolians, Save the Children, a child rights organization operating in Mongolia since 1994, alongside the World Bank and Japan Social Development Fund, implemented the project Improving Primary Education Outcomes for the Most Vulnerable Children in Rural Mongolia.

The project operated from 2012 to 2017 in four aimags (Arkhangai, Uvurkhangai, Dornod and Sukhbaatar). The program enabled the completion of the Home Based School Preparation Program for around 4,000 5-year-old herder children. The project utilized mobile learning kits with educational toys, activity books and guidebooks. The program was so effective that primary school enrollment in the four aimags rose from 72.8% in 2012-2013 to 86% in 2017-2018.

Education in rural Mongolia suffered after the collapse of the socialist educational system, but thanks to government initiatives and NGO projects, more herder children are receiving a quality education.

– James Harrington
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Digital Economy in Mongolia
Mongolia is a country in East Asia that borders China and Russia. As the country continues to progress, the public has an increased desire for information and communication technologies that must be met. Known as the world’s most heavily populated country, technologies are needed, especially in Mongolian rural areas, in order to improve education. Fortunately, on June 6, 2022, Mongolia made a significant effort to address its technological challenges by accepting International Development Association (IDA) credit with the intention of creating a more digital economy for Mongolia.

The Implementation

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a $40.7 million International Development Association (IDA) credit in order to help Mongolia increase digital skills and training as well as improve online public services. This will help make technology more common in Mongolia. According to Andrei Mikhnev, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia, the Mongolian youth will develop more skills this way and become more familiar with the technology. It will improve their knowledge and help them become eligible for a wider range of jobs. In addition to this, women, people with disabilities and people living in rural areas will be able to access basic digital services, explained Mikhnev.

Mongolia is preparing to build a strong digital economy. This includes more Mongolians having better access to the internet. According to World Bank, as of 2020, 63% of Mongolians use the internet.

A more digital economy ties into a better economy, with access to internet services, faster productivity for businesses and the opportunity for online education. This project aims to assist in the development of a more digital economy for Mongolia as well as to provide new opportunities for Mongolia’s development.

According to the World Bank, the project will help 13,000 civilians improve their digital skills. In addition to this, it will “create 3,000 new digital jobs for youth and women and help digitalize 2,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to improve their competitiveness and resilience in the global economy.”

More Digital Economy for Mongolia

A more digital economy for Mongolia means a better way of life. A better digital economy could bring more online educational opportunities. It is essential that homes have electricity and internet in order for Mongolians to proceed with education at home. However, as of 2020, 18.4% of Mongolian homes had limited access to energy.

Having a broader range of educational opportunities could help create more jobs and increase the possibility of income. In addition, according to World Bank, this “will assist the government in adopting an integrated, whole-of-government approach for its online public services and digital investments.”

The effect that the Mongolian economy has on Mongolians has led to protests, with the youth arguing that parliament does not do its job in ensuring that the economy is suitable for a comfortable life. According to Jacobin, “Mongolians’ anger at the state stems from an overwhelming sense that politicians live in their own bubbles, isolated from the lives of ordinary people.”

Mongolia’s plan stands as an indicator of the progression of a digital-savvy economy. According to the Mongolia Sustainable Development Vision 2030, Mongolia’s goal is to provide internet coverage to 70% of the population by 2020, 90% of the population by 2025 and 95% of the population by 2030. Mongolia’s progress could help create a more digital economy, helping its inhabitants live an easier lifestyle.

 Frema Mensah
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in MongoliaKnown for its wild, rugged expanses and rich background of battle and survival, the world has historically characterized Mongolia as a nation of the tough and hardy. This remains true today, with the country’s relatively small population of 3.3 million braving harsh living conditions in severe winters that can fall below -40 Celsius and about 28% of the total population living in poverty in 2020. Though much research exists on the grit of Mongolians, research on the impacts of harsh living conditions on mental health in Mongolia is less common.

The State of Mental Health Care in Mongolia Today

From the minimal amount of data available on Mongolian mental health care, it is apparent that, as of 2017, Mongolia has a single mental hospital in Ulaan Baatar. WHO states that there is one “mental health outpatient facility attached to a hospital” but there is no or no reported “community-based or non-hospital mental health outpatient facility” and no or no reported “other outpatient facilities.” WHO also found that in 2017 the Mongolian government did not spend any of its total health budget on the mental health sector.

Furthermore, a 2005 study found that 90% of Mongolia’s mental health experts had been trained in the 1970s and 1980s and lacked the “knowledge, attitude and skills required for community-based mental health care.” This poses a dangerous situation for all Mongolians in need of care, particularly those for whom access to mental health care can be a matter of life or death.

In 2015, suicide stood as the cause of about a quarter of deaths among adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19. Even more alarming is the fact that “according to the 2013 Global School-based Student Health Survey, 32.1[%]of girls between the ages of 16 and 17 had seriously considered suicide and 11.6[%] had attempted suicide within the last year.”

Furthermore, although mental health services for the youth are few, a 2017 study reported a high prevalence of mental health issues among Mongolian adolescents, standing at 43%.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates existing issues, taking a significant toll on the physical and mental health of Mongolians. The pandemic has placed immense pressure on the “relatively young and inexperienced health care professionals” in Mongolia, obliging them to take on “continuous and long work hours.” This has led to health care workers exhibiting signs of mental afflictions.

Efforts to Help

Without easy access to proper mental health care, much of the population remains at risk of suffering from mental illness. However, with much research emphasizing the importance of community in fostering positive mental well-being, Mongolia has introduced community-based services across the country.

One example of this is the WHO and SOROS Foundation-funded ‘Ger’ project, in which project partners set up portable Mongolian roundhouses called ‘gers’ across rural areas as community-based day centers staffed by general health care. Established in 2000, the project provided “people with chronic mental illnesses with the opportunity to increase their social and living skills” through psychosocial rehabilitation. The ‘Ger’ project saw success – from 2002-2007, the relapse of mental illnesses of ‘Ger’ project patients reduced by 95%. However, despite its success, the ‘Ger’ is not currently running.

UNICEF Mongolia launched a virtual campaign to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce stress and anxiety in communities. Launched in 2021 and lasting 10 days, around 400 youth volunteers received mental health training from psychologists and professionals, including guidance on self-help techniques. The volunteers then had to “create support groups among their communities and peers” and “provide information and knowledge on mental health to their support groups” while putting into practice the self-help techniques. Named “From Awareness to Action; let’s keep our mind healthy!”, the campaign helped participants to “reduce their stress and anxiety” through group support.

Looking Ahead

With comprehensive and concrete mental health care services few and far between, the Mongolian government may need to take more significant steps in order to support the mental well-being of its citizens. Recent projects show that when organizations prioritize community services and mobilize the youth to spread awareness of self-care, mental health in Mongolia has great potential for improvement.

– Imogen Scott
Photo: Unsplash

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Mongolia
As more individuals receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, countries are beginning to loosen restrictions imposed due to the virus. Toward the end of July 2021, England relaxed its travel restrictions by allowing fully vaccinated travelers across the European Union and the United States to visit England without quarantining. Similarly, the U.S. currently plans to relax international travel regulations for fully vaccinated foreigners and citizens. However, not all nations are in a position to act as England and the U.S. have. Reporting an average of nearly 2,900 new infections every day, COVID-19 continues to make its presence known in Mongolia. Grappling with a declining economy and poor infrastructure, many Mongolian civilians have entered or remained in poverty since March 2020. Fortunately, organizations within the United States and abroad engaged in relief efforts to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Mongolia.

The Connection Between Poverty and COVID-19 in Mongolia

While Mongolia boasts fewer cases than Asian counterparts like India and Indonesia, trends indicate rising infection numbers and daily deaths. On March 28, 2021, the average number of new infections was 321. However, the number rose to about 3,700 new infections on September 25, 2021. To emphasize the rapid rates at which coronavirus is spreading in Mongolia, the U.S. Department of State assigned a level four advisory to Mongolia on July 6, urging civilians not to travel to the country.

One of the most devastating impacts of COVID-19 in Mongolia lies in its economic effects. The Mongolian economy suffered its worst hit since the 1990s with a 5.3% contraction in 2020, primarily due to reduced trade with China. This came from closed borders and low demand for fossil fuels, critical elements of the typically lucrative mining industry. Concerning the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Mongolia, between 195,000 and 260,000 more individuals fell into poverty due to the pandemic. The poverty rate also increased by more than 5%, from 28.4% in 2018 to 33.6% in 2020.  Additionally, approximately 35.2% of suffering Mongolian households reported income decline and financial issues in 2020, indicating the pandemic’s widespread influence.

Poverty, COVID-19 and Children in Mongolia

Poverty affects children, as initial school closures and reduced capacity for childcare impacted more than 900,000 children under 18, who make up almost a third of the country’s population. Alongside reduced access to education, a UNICEF report highlights how physical abuse of children rose by 32.9% in Mongolia. A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information describes how increased rates of abuse likely reflect how the pandemic forced thousands of parents into unemployment and children out of school, leading to a significant connection between job loss and child maltreatment. Food insecurity also provided a challenge to children and families within the nation as surveys indicate that 62.1% of children endured weight loss because of inadequate access to vitamins and nutrient-rich food. Additionally, 20.3% of children experienced decreased frequency of meals.

Humanitarian Relief Efforts

While increased economic decline, child abuse and food insecurity represent the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on poverty, relief efforts highlight the positive collaboration between countries that helps lift Mongolians out of poverty. For one, Japan “extend $883 million yen,” or roughly $8 million U.S. dollars, to Mongolia earlier this month. The Japan International Cooperation Agency aims to equip the nation with cold chain technology, like refrigerated vehicles to transport vaccines, to ensure vaccine distribution.

Additionally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced the opening of capacity development centers in Mongolia in February 2021. Both virtual and physical, these centers will help eradicate poverty by bolstering economic development across Central Asia, the Caucasus and Mongolia. Certain organizations like the Asian Development Bank extended aid to specifically address food insecurity caused by COVID-19 in Mongolia. In October 2020, the bank administered a $410,000 “technical assistance” grant to combat supply distributions by establishing price monitoring systems and food emergency stock.

Despite challenges presented by the pandemic, Mongolia has proven to be resilient. Projections have determined that with the help of global aid, the economy should recover throughout 2021, and the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Mongolia could lessen.

– Riya Sharma
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 Vaccination in MongoliaEfforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Mongolia can be described in the oxymoron “small but mighty.” This tiny nation is typically overshadowed by its neighboring states, Russia and China. However, in the event of a pandemic, the position as a small country enclosed by the borders of the world’s two largest vaccine manufacturers can be extremely valuable. Mongolia has benefited greatly from its close ties with its neighbors, powerful forces determined to aid their partners through vaccine diplomacy. As a result of these vaccination efforts, Mongolia hopes to be free of COVID-19 sometime around the Mongolian summer of 2021.

Helpful Partnerships

Mongolia has a sufficient number of vaccines to properly ensure protection within the adult population, primarily due to its advantageous location between China and Russia. The relationship between Mongolia and China dates back to the 1940s when the countries signed a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance. As for Mongolia and Russia, both nations signed the Russo-Mongolian Agreement back in 1912, which gives both countries major commercial advantages. Through these foreign policy agreements, toward the end of April 2021, Mongolia had 1.5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and 20,000 doses of Sputnik-V vaccines from Russia.

Additionally, on March 24, 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) committed $1.2 million to assist the Mongolian government in its COVID-19 response, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia. USAID is committed to assisting efforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Mongolia by strengthening the country’s disease-fighting capabilities. USAID also supports other critical areas such as “infection prevention and control, preparing laboratory systems for large-scale testing” and public communication on personal preventative measures. Due to aid from Russia, China, the United States and other foreign assistance, as of May 6, 2021, Mongolia has administered more than 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination Diplomacy and Foreign Policy

The worldwide pandemic brought into sharp focus the importance of a nation’s foreign policy and what is made possible through efforts of foreign and domestic relations. Mongolia is reaping the benefits of vaccination diplomacy by relying on its well-established foreign policy framework. Mongolia’s COVID-19 vaccine initiative includes COVAX, an international effort aimed at ensuring equal access to COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the world.

Specifically, Mongolia’s foreign minister, Battsetseg Batmunkh, has maintained excellent relationships with Mongolia’s allies. For instance, the U.S. and Mongolia have been in regular contact on how the United States, as a key ally, can help Mongolia tackle COVID-19. Additionally, On February 24, 2021, Batmunkh expressed deep gratitude to the foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, for China’s generous assistance in providing resources to Mongolia to fight COVID-19. Batmunkh also adds that the China-Mongolia relationship sets a good example of how nations around the world can empower one another in the face of adversity.

The Mongolian government is so optimistic about the country’s vaccination rollout that Mongolia is promising citizens a summer free from COVID-19. With a fully vaccinated population of 53.4% as of June 1, 2021, Mongolia is without a doubt at the forefront of the worldwide effort to safeguard communities against COVID-19.

Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash

Environmental Poverty in Mongolia
The biosphere is rapidly deteriorating and nomadic life in Mongolia is paying a high price. Those who lose their livestock to severe weather conditions also lose their main source of revenue and safety. Many abandon their farms to pursue a life in the cities, where other calamities await. Today, the situation of environmental poverty in Mongolia has grown direr than ever.

The Problem of Landowners

Mongolia’s abrupt transition from a Soviet satellite state into a free market economy left little room for nomads to enjoy fiscal mobility. Shortly after lands were privatized, opportunists secured farmlands and promptly overexploited them. These elites would excessively hoard horses, sheep and yak, who would subsequently mow the grounds down to bare land. Nomads, who had lived as if the land was shared and had known how to properly cultivate and harvest from their farms, were left in the dust. Today, 80% of the country’s livestock belongs to the richest 20% of owners.

The agricultural inexperience of many of these owners came at environmental and economic costs. “Herding is a skill that you learn over a lifetime,” says Dr. Timothy May, professor in Eurasian Studies at the University of North Georgia. “Being a nomad looks like you’re just raising animals and the animals know what to do, but you have to know how to manage the animals. What would work with their pastures and so forth.”

Natural Catastrophes

Overfarming and other sorts of extraction, such as mining, have grown into large-scale issues like pollution and public health conditions. Gers, tent-like structures that serve as portable houses, are often heated by burning raw coal and cheap minerals. Particulate air matter or dust particles clog the air and damage respiratory systems. As a result, pneumonia is currently the leading cause of death in the country.

Possibly the most devastating climate crisis, however, is the largest determinant of nomadic poverty. Dzuds are various natural catastrophes specific to Mongolia’s shifts in weather and are only growing in size and severity. Of the five types of dzuds, the most commonly known is a tsaagan dzud. During these, a layer of ice or snow blocks animals from reaching food or water, leaving them to die in mass groups. In 2010, 20% of the country’s animals were wiped out as a result. This year, many experts are suggesting the risk of a dzud is unnervingly high.

Environmental Poverty on the Rise

With each environmental change, nomads are increasingly vulnerable to the clutches of poverty. Cities like Ulaanbaatar are already saturated with public health concerns like food insecurity and urban populations are still growing. Maternal mortality and water scarcity are further complicating the issue.

Not all hope is lost, however. Dr. May suggests that by empowering skilled nomads, they could start to untangle the economic and environmental damages. “Nomadic lifestyle is better not only for the animals but the quality of the product, there is an industry that can be there,” he says, “because there’s plenty of money to be made with the nomadic life….They can feed the country — they can be self-sufficient, and with plenty to export.” These recommendations, among other solutions, are important to addressing the cycle of environmental poverty in Mongolia.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Investing in Renewable Energy in MongoliaEnergy access has surged in Mongolia in recent years. From 2010 to 2018, the percentage of the population that had access to energy in Mongolia increased from 78.5% to 98.1%. In rural areas, the percentage of people who had access to electricity in 2010 was roughly 41.9% and that number grew to about 94.6% in 2018. This increase in energy access coincides with renewable energy projects in Mongolia that the country has invested in.

Mongolia and Energy

Mongolia relies on imported coal for most of its energy. In 2018, 93% of all power generated from the country’s Central Energy System came from coal plants. However, the coal sector cannot maintain the country’s energy demand for the growing population. Fortunately, the potential for wind and solar energy in Mongolia is believed to be 2,600 gigawatts. This would provide enough energy for all of Mongolia and even Northeast Asia.

The Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity Access Project (REAP)

One of the first projects to capitalize on renewable energy in Mongolia was the Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity Access Project (REAP) which was completed from 2007 to 2012. The goal of the project was to provide herders access to electricity by selling and installing solar home systems (SHSs). At the time, herders were among the most impoverished people in the country. Fortunately, the SHS units provided under the REAP project greatly improved more than 70% of herders’ electricity access in Mongolia.

Photovoltaic Solar Energy (PV)

In 2017, the Second Energy Sector Project (SESP), presented by Mongolio’s Ministry of Energy, was approved by the World Bank. The project’s objective is to renovate and expand Mongolia’s energy infrastructure. The $54.4 million in funding would help supply nine of the country’s provinces and install Mongolio’s first large-scale build photovoltaic solar energy (PV) plant.

Mongolia’s investment follows the successful implementation of PV systems in China. According to Nature, “Of China’s 10 poverty-alleviation projects, its development of photovoltaic-based solar power has been one of the most successful.” In just three years, the solar installations helped 800,000 impoverished households in China. In Lixin, a county in China, the PV systems provided about $440 in extra yearly income to families.

Looking Forward

The government continues to invest in renewable energy in Mongolia. In April 2020, funding was approved to install the world’s largest Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). The project is set to be completed in 2024 and will “supply 44 gigawatt-hours of clean peaking power annually, and support the integration of an additional 859 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity into the CES grid annually.” The PV systems and BESS are just two new installations of many that are set to tap into the potential of renewable energy in Mongolia and help improve the quality of life for many.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Herders and Poverty
Mongolia is situated in Central Asia and is landlocked by Russia to the north and China to the south. The country has a rich history that remains shrouded in mystery for many people. Its vast landscape consists of mountains, pastures and deserts. As a result, the geography creates suitable conditions for migrant herders to carry out their traditions. Sheep, camels, cattle, yak, goats and horses have provided for nomads for thousands of years.

History of Mongolia

Outer Mongolia used to be a part of the Mongolian Empire while Inner Mongolia was a province of China. The split of Mongolia developed first from internal strife within the Empire.  Genghis Khan ruled in the eastern territory for 34 years. The Manchus people ruled during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Through alliances with Chinese administrators, the Ming dynasty was able to start expanding its power. By 1700, the Qing dynasty gained full control of Mongolia. To alleviate tensions, the Manchus used strategies to pacify the Mongol Khans. The two groups proposed intermarriage between the two groups in order to stabilize the country. In 1945, Western powers recognized the sovereignty of Mongolia, while Inner Mongolia remained a province of China.

Poverty in Mongolia

There are two main factors that explain the decline of the herding economy: The end and privatization of livestock cooperatives and state farms and climate change. As a result, the socio-economic repercussions rapidly created a new underclass of extremely impoverished families. These families are predominantly unemployed migrant herders with few livestock to support them. In 2017, environmental challenges dealt a fatal blow to the last surviving migrant herders. Thus, around 600,000 migrant herders seeking employment flocked to Ulaanbaatar with their families. Due to their lack of income, many families had to live in yurts around the urban centers.

In an interview, Altansukh Purev told the Guardian, “We lost all our animals […] 39 out of 40 cows, almost 300 sheep. The cows wandered far away in the snow and never came back. And when we got up one morning, all the sheep had frozen to death. We had lost everything so we decided to leave immediately for Ulaanbaatar.” Migrant herders are particularly vulnerable to the “dudz,” an unusual weather pattern marked by dry summers and extremely frigid winters.

Aid for Mongolia

Mongolia experienced a period of recovery when mining sectors, tourism and trade partners brought substantial revenue.

More recently, USAID has reached out to Mongolia during the COVID-19 pandemic to implement strategies for sustainable growth. According to USAID, the Mongolian economy needs to move away from heavily relying on extractive industries and begin expanding its smaller business sectors. To date, USAID has provided more than 500 groups and cooperatives with technical assistance.

Additionally, Australia has awarded scholarships to 62 Mongolian students to receive higher education in Australia. A technical school in the south Gobi serves as a model for Technical and Vocational Education through competency-based training curricula. Australia also extends its assistance to target sustainable growth, safety regulations in the mining sectors and geoscience.

Migrant herders are finding more opportunities to improve their income, education and health through aid Mongolia has received. Although many migrants cannot go back to herding, training and education allow them to provide for their families.

Elhadjoumar Tall
Photo: Flickr

Pollution in Mongolia
Pollution is just as much of a problem in the developing world as it is in the developed world, perhaps even more so. For one, developing countries cannot always afford to fight it. Additionally, oftentimes pollution is created directly by what is needed to survive. This is the case in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. Efforts to address pollution in Mongolia go hand-in-hand with helping the poor.

Pollution and Poverty

Many people in Ulaanbaatar, often impoverished, rely heavily on coal to keep themselves warm during cold winters. The problem is that the widespread usage of coal concentrated in one area creates a great deal of air pollution. Temperatures in the city rarely reach above the upper 60s, creating an almost yearlong reliance on coal.

In turn, air pollution negatively impacts the impoverished in Ulaanbaatar, where poverty is increasing. Many struggling Mongolian families deal with the unhealthy air firsthand. Air pollution can cause a variety of health problems, including lung and heart diseases. As the impoverished are likely to be unable to afford or access high-quality health care, this often leads to higher mortality rates.

Potential Solutions

The most straightforward solution would be to do away with coal usage. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done, considering the temperatures in Ulaanbaatar. The government would need to establish more sustainable and better methods of heating to provide people with the necessary heating to survive. It is also essential for these methods to be affordable to ensure the impoverished can use them. Two alternative methods are geothermal heating and underfloor heating.

Geothermal heating involves using the underground to heat a home, as the temperatures underground are often reliably warmer than above-ground temperatures. Installing geothermal heating pumps requires finding suitable areas underground to drill. Unfortunately, the pumps can also be expensive to install; humanitarian organizations would need to provide significant funding to set up this heating system in Ulaanbaatar.

Another viable method of heating is underfloor heating. It is similar to geothermal heating but a bit less work and has significant benefits such as being much cheaper than other heating sources and eliminating drafts entirely. However, it also requires funding for installation. The installation could help those in poverty, however, as it could utilize local workers for the construction.

Underfloor heating may also be the better alternative because many poor Mongolians have a nomadic lifestyle and the installation must take place in unused areas. With an understanding of migration patterns, underfloor heating could be installed in areas that are currently in disuse so that it is ready to be used when people return.

Moving Forward

Pollution in Mongolia continues to be an issue, particularly in cities like Ulaanbaatar. With concerns about health problems associated with high air pollution, it is clear that a sustainable alternative to coal needs to be implemented. Implementation, however, will require significant funding from the Mongolian government and humanitarian organizations. Moving forward, it is essential that these groups make addressing pollution in the country a priority of their efforts. Pollution and poverty are intertwined; pollution must be adequately addressed in order to eradicate poverty.

Remy Desai-Patel
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Mongolia
Mongolia is a country in East Asia with more than 3 million people. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Mongolia experienced varied periods of social change and growth. After dispelling the controlling Communist Party in the early 1990s, social and economic policies rapidly transformed the nation’s outlook and prospects. Consequently, opportunities for women also changed. To understand this issue better, here are six facts about women’s rights in Mongolia.

6 Facts About Women’s Rights in Mongolia

  1. The communist party provided new opportunities for women in the twentieth century. In 1921, the Mongol nationalists established a communist party, in tandem with the Soviet Union, which essentially proclaimed equality between men and women. As a result, women received an education, entered the workforce and had political power. The government provided generous benefits and healthcare, and female literacy rates dramatically increased.
  2. The fall of the Soviet Union presented opportunities and challenges for women’s rights. The political transition in Mongolia came with newfound hardships, particularly economic ones. The new government removed subsidies assisting Mongolians, leaving many without financial assistance. From 1991 to the mid-200s, women faced higher unemployment levels, and more than 30% lived in poverty.
  3. With men working in the fields, women have turned to cities for employment and have found success. In recent years, as agriculture was deemed a male endeavor, women were forced to turn to other places to earn an income. Parents subsequently invested in their daughters’ education, and now, with women more educated than men, they are more likely to be employed. This phenomenon is now being deemed a “reverse gender gap.”
  4. The female unemployment rate is 2.6%, while male unemployment is 7.1%. This might not be a good thing for women’s rights in Mongolia, however. With higher alcoholism rates for Mongolian men in recent years, there is a clear connection between unemployment, alcoholism and violence within the home. Approximately one-third of Mongolian women suffer from domestic violence, a staggering statistic for a country whose economy relies so heavily on female labor.
  5. Sexual harassment remains a serious issue. With an estimated 63% of women experiencing sexual harassment of some form, the need for reform is evident. There is not a law in Mongolia protecting women from male harassment. Even in the workplace, where women are significant contributors, there is no legal defense against unwanted harassment.
  6. Despite female education rates, women are subject to massive inequities in pay. On average, women are more likely to be better educated than their male counterparts; however, traditional norms and values prevent women from fully achieving equality. A lack of childcare and social benefits, partnered with patriarchal values, gets in the way of opportunities for women. Furthermore, the gender pay gap stands at more than 12.6%, an increase from previous years. Even when women persevere through their society’s social limits, they do not receive as much pay as men of the same standing.

The unique history of Mongolia has altered the standing of women in Mongolian society multiple times. Despite Mongolia’s patriarchal values, the investment in female education has proven to be fruitful as women are well-educated and seeking work within the commercial setting. However, there is still much work to be done, as women face lower wages, sexual abuse and inequalities.

There is room to be hopeful, though, as rising levels of education and employment mean that there will be continued improvement within Mongolia’s social and economic spheres. Hopefully, women’s rights in Mongolia will continue to improve, and all Mongolians will soon embrace female contributions to society.

Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr