The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act
Representatives Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) along with eight other bipartisan representatives proposed the Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act. Mongolia has become a prominent ally due to its location; it lies between Russia and China, and while it is independent, it still relies on both countries for resources and support. The Third-Neighbor Trade Act is an important bill for maintaining stable trade relations with not only Mongolia but other allied nations as well.

How Trade Relations Can Strengthen Mongolia

The main purpose of this bill is to create a stronger economy within Mongolia. According to a press release from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) on April 11, 2019, “The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act is not just about the imports of cashmere; it is a smart policy that supports a strong, independent Mongolia that continues to be a beacon of freedom in the region and a strategic partner of the United States.”

This shows how important U.S. trade relations with Mongolia are in protecting independent freedom. The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act comprises of four main components that will improve trade relations.

The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act’s purpose is to improve trade relations and it should make Mongolia more economically stable. The bill plans to utilize the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Through the help of corporations and enterprises, the economy in Mongolia can securely expand. The increase in technology and science can create other forms of trade for Mongolia to offer to the other partnered nations.

Mongolia is constantly competing with China to become the largest producer of cashmere and textiles. With duty-free trade in place for Mongolia’s exports, there will be no other competition for these goods within the U.S. In return, the U.S. will expand on what goods and resources it will export to Mongolia.

Protecting Mongolia’s Resources

The second part of the bill seeks to improve U.S. exports to Mongolia which will help Mongolians survive harsh winters. Winters in Mongolia can be particularly deadly to the livestock that live there. It is particularly reliant on its livestock in terms of the industry employing one-third of its population.

Without any way of protecting their main source of income, these rural communities start spiraling towards poverty. During the time of dzud, which is the Mongolian word for winters so severe they kill plenty of livestock, many things can happen. Mainly, the livestock cannot create a significant enough reserve of fat to protect them from the harsh conditions. If Mongolia becomes a priority to receive imports from the U.S., farmers will be able to better prepare for this type of disaster.

Third, the bill will create more jobs in Mongolia, particularly for women. Women will be able to create cashmere goods within the country instead of exporting the cashmere to China for production. The bill will create 40,000 jobs for women to create cashmere products. Women are primarily dominating the garment industry in the country. These jobs will boost Mongolia’s economy by not only empowering the nation but by keeping it out of poverty.

Duty-Free Trade

Lastly, the bill will impose a duty-free trade on products containing 23 percent or more cashmere. This part of the bill has the support of two major trade businesses, The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) and Mongolia’s Gobi Corporation. Through the Mongolia Third Neighbor Trade Act, “Congress would forge a stronger partnership with our friends in Mongolia and provide American consumers with better access to these high-end products,” said the CEO of AAFA. The Gobi Corporation has shops within the U.S. The Corporation believes that the U.S. will become an even stronger competitor against China as a consumer of cashmere goods.

The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act seeks to improve relations with Mongolia. These relations have been changing since 2007, putting the U.S. in danger of losing the trade advantage of China and Russia. Mongolia has provided military aid to many countries in both Afghanistan and Iran. While representatives have proposed and changed this bill over the last few years, the support of 10 Congressmen may have perfected it. The five Democrats and five Republicans working on this bill show that a united front can lower the effects of poverty.

Christina Atler
Photo: Flickr

Winters in Mongolia
Mongolia, a mountainous country that borders both Russia and China, is infamous for its harsh, dry winters. Severe winters are particularly dangerous for the 40 percent of the population that survive by herding animals. Traditionally, Mongolian herders depend on their herds for everything; they eat the animals’ meat and drink their milk, burn the waste for warmth and sell and trade skins.

Dzud

The particularly deadly combination of summer droughts and freezing winters in Mongolia is so notorious that it has a name: dzud. This is the term used to describe the phenomenon in which dry summers prevent animals from obtaining the necessary protective fat to survive the extreme temperatures of the winter, and hundreds of thousands die, plunging many herders into poverty. As of 2016, the poverty rate in Mongolia was almost 30 percent and has increased disproportionately in rural areas. The percentage of rural residents living below the poverty line in 2016 was 49 percent, compared to 33 percent in cities.

There are several different types of dzud, classified by herders depending on weather patterns. Black dzud is characterized by long periods of drought, and a white dzud involves heavy snow that obstructs normal grazing patterns. Iron dzud entails a winter with a period of thawing and refreezing which encases pastures in ice, and a cold dzud causes animals to burn through their stores of fat prematurely.

Unstable Weather Conditions

Dzud has historically been a fact of life for Mongolian herders, generally occurring once or twice each decade, but evidence suggests that the natural disaster is becoming more frequent in recent years due to changing weather patterns. Mongolia experienced three dzuds at the turn of the 21st century and another in 2010, which killed 22 percent of all livestock in the country. Most recently, 2018’s dzud killed over 700,000 livestock. Experts have linked these severe droughts to the increasing frequency of deadly dzuds and predict worse and more frequent dzuds in the coming years.

Urbanization

For herders, this prediction is highly unsettling. Many have given up their ancestral pastoral lifestyles and moved to urban areas in search of more stable work. Oyutan Gonchig moved to Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, after the dzud of 2000 killed his herd. He says many of his friends and neighbors have also moved due to similar losses, and he questions whether herding animals is even sustainable anymore.

Increasing urbanization in Mongolia has contributed to other issues. Ulaanbaatar has grown by 70 percent in the past two decades and is now home to around 40 percent of Mongolia’s residents. Those in the city’s slums, called ger, often have to deal with a lack of sanitation, water, electricity and heat, making life in the city difficult for many. The ger house around 60 percent of the city’s residents.

A Growing Mining Industry

Other former farmers and herders are looking to the mines for financial stability. The nation is endowed with large quantities of natural resources like coal, copper and gold. Many Mongolians have migrated to provinces with rich mineral deposits to work in the mines or as truck drivers ferrying resources across state borders to buyers in China. Mining accounts for 90 percent of Mongolia’s exports, so the industry is lucrative. However, heavy traffic and collisions spell danger for the more than 12,000 drivers working the Sino-Mongolian border. 51 truck drivers were killed on the road from 2015-2018.

Who is Helping?

Dzud has caused widespread poverty and instability in Mongolia, resulting in hunger and malnourishment, but several nonprofit organizations are working to combat the detrimental impact of winters in Mongolia. Mercy Corps has been working on the ground in Mongolia since 1999, providing veterinary materials and services, strategic agricultural training and weather prediction services to help herders through dzud. Mercy Corps also encourages small businesses and entrepreneurs who have begun tapping into Mongolia’s budding tourism industry.

In 2017, World Animal Protection partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and USAID to provide emergency nutrition packs to 1,740 Mongolian households. The packs included vitamin supplements, milk powder and food blocks to help livestock survive the harsh winters in Mongolia.

Despite these efforts, dzud is still contributing to rising rural poverty rates and the urbanization of Mongolia. A more serious, coalition-style response must be implemented to establish long-term solutions and poverty relief for Mongolian citizens and the animals so many depend on for survival.

– Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in Mongolia

Mongolia experienced a relatively democratic revolution in the early 1990s. As a result, the country formed a multi-party system, wrote a new constitution and even created new means of economic growth. Mongolia is abundant in resources and its economy has been supported by the country’s established mining and agricultural sector. The country also boasts some successes as it has worked to pass a variety of new legislation. For example, legislation that strengthens inclusive governance and reduces gender disparities. Despite engagement in its future, there are still challenges of continuing poverty in Mongolia. Furthermore, Mongolia faces a lack of access to equal opportunities that would improve livelihoods. Here are ten facts about poverty in Mongolia which present some of those challenges in more detail.

10 Facts About Poverty in Mongolia

  1. There has been a decrease in the prices of coal and copper – These were previously two of Mongolia’s main export products. This has influenced the decrease in growth percentage over the last decade. Compared to 11.6 percent growth in 2013, Mongolia has been experiencing decreasing economic growth in the single digits. In 2016, the growth percentage was at a low 1.2 percent.
  2. Development growth is reducing poverty rates – Though there has been a recent economic downturn, Mongolia’s overall development growth has helped to reduce poverty rates in the country. Poverty rates decreased from 38.7 percent in 2010 to 27.4 percent in 2012. That difference is greater than 11 percent.
  3. Poverty rates are barely decreasing – According to an estimation conducted by the National Statistical Office and the World Bank, Mongolia’s recent estimation in 2018 shows that 28.4 percent of the population is below the poverty line. This is a decrease of slightly over one percent from the 2016 estimate.
  4. Income inequality is continuing the cycle of poverty – What continues to reinforce poverty in Mongolia is its income inequality. Poverty rates are higher in rural areas compared to urban areas at 35.5 percent versus 23.2 percent. Subsequently, many people move to Ulaanbaatar. That is Mongolia’s most densely populated city, home to 60 percent of the population. The living conditions in the outskirts of the city lack basic services, resulting in a lower quality of life. For example, sanitation or primary education is not available there. Additionally, jobs in the larger city require more qualified skills which newcomers do not have. With these factors, poverty rates are constant and unemployment rates stagger in Ulaanbaatar.
  5. Rural areas lack access to sanitation – In urban areas, two-thirds of the population has access to working sanitation. However, in rural areas, only 36 percent of the population has access. In the poorest households of rural areas, slightly over 10 percent have access to those resources.
  6. The “100-Day Plan” aims to improve the economy – In April of 2014, Mongolia’s prime minister launched a “100-day action plan” intended to boost the economy. The plan has a 50-point agenda that covers various areas of the economy such as manufacturing and the development of small businesses, to lift more people out of poverty. An economic council oversees the action plan, jump-starts the projects and reports back to the Prime Minister. The plan works to address current needs but the country will need a sustainable strategy to benefit the economy and populations long-term.
  7. People who escaped poverty are in danger of becoming impoverished again – Even those who make it above the poverty line in Mongolia are vulnerable to slipping back under. In fact, this is a sign of unsustainable economic support. The National Statistical Office noted that this is due to the consumption level of people who get out of poverty being at the bare minimum. Their report presents that those who were above the poverty line in 2014 returned under in 2015 and 2016. This was due to sudden and negative socioeconomic decreases.
  8. There is a lack of educational opportunities – Families living in poverty, especially in rural areas, have trouble finding consistent and equal educational opportunities for their children. However, organizations like UNICEF are impacting changes in education among all students. The Basic Education Programme has assisted the Mongolian government in providing socioeconomic services to families in poor regions. Additionally, the program has helped to reduce secondary school drop-outs by 68 percent.
  9. Infant mortality is high – A vast household survey conducted in 2010 uncovered that infant mortality rates in rural areas are double that of urban areas. Additionally, children in poor households are three times more likely to be underweight than children in wealthy households. Growing up below the poverty line can influence a Mongolian child’s survival rate.
  10. Urban area populations are growing which can result in a geographical transfer of poverty rates – The World Bank stated that between 2016 and 2018, the poverty rate decreased by four percent in rural areas, though the rate is still high. It also increased by 0.1 percent in urban areas. Poverty is highly concentrated in these urban areas.

Looking to the Future

These 10 facts about poverty in Mongolia show that the country’s transition has come with many struggles in its fight to better people’s livelihoods. However, as the country gains more income, there is a chance for more diverse opportunities in job placement which will raise economic growth. As long as poverty-reduction measures are included in the development of the country, poverty rates can decrease in the future.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Pixabay

life expectancy in Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked nation in Central Asia bordered by China to the south and Russia to the north. It is the third-least sparsely populated country in the world with an average population of 1.9 people per square kilometer. Mongolia has been a representative democracy since the U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1990 when a protest movement forced out the pro-Soviet government. The country’s economy crashed after the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s and then again after the global financial crisis of 2009. It exhibited a strong recovery a few years after each event. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Mongolia should shed some light on the state of health in this country today.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mongolia

  1. The average life expectancy in Mongolia is 69.9 years, ranking 160 in the world out of 224 countries listed. For comparison, the U.S. ranked 43 in life expectancy. According to figures from the World Bank, life expectancy in Mongolia had increased by 43 percent between 1960 and 2016.

  2. The top causes of premature death in Mongolia are heart disease, stroke and neonatal disorders (diseases affecting newborn children). However, neonatal disorders have decreased significantly in recent years. According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the prevalence of neonatal disorders decreased by 13.3 percent in just 10 years from 2007 to 2017. Infant mortality overall has steadily declined since 1978 from 117.9 to 14.8 per 1,000 live births. However, heart disease and stroke have both increased during that same period by 9.3 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively.

  3. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government foreign aid agency, cooperated with the Mongolian government on a variety of programs as part of a $284.9 million compact between 2007 and 2013. One of those programs was the Health Project, which aimed to combat various diseases, including heart disease and stroke. The project trained more than 17,000 medical professionals and provided equipment to more than 550 health facilities, which enabled those facilities to screen almost every Mongolian person over the age of 40 for various diseases.

  4. In Mongolia, there is a steep divide in health care access between urban and rural areas. Part of the reason for Mongolia’s low population density is that many people in rural areas practice a nomadic lifestyle. However, the healthcare system, which has been largely dependent upon foreign aid since dramatic cuts in government spending in the 1990s, has struggled to adapt to servicing such a mobile population. This lack of equal access to healthcare might explain why health indicators, including maternal and infant mortality rates, HIV/AIDS and others are generally worse in rural areas of Mongolia than in cities.

  5. In recent years, the Mongolian government, with the help of the Asian Development Bank, has significantly expanded access to healthcare for rural people. This involved building new health centers, and providing new equipment and training to existing centers and hospitals. Shilchin Degmid, a nomadic livestock herder, told the ADB that, in particular, “[e]mergency services have greatly improved.” In the end, it is estimated that 700,000 people will receive improved healthcare as a result of the initiative.

  6. Even in urban areas with more facilities, access to healthcare can be very difficult for people living in poverty. Whether they live in the city or the country, people in Mongolia living in poverty struggle to access affordable healthcare. According to Lindskog, in Mongolia, “population health and access to affordable health care are significantly linked to socioeconomic disparities.”
  7. Poverty affects more than 1 in 4 people. According to the Asian Development Bank, 29.6 percent of people in Mongolia live in poverty. However, extreme poverty has decreased dramatically since its peak of 26.9 percent twenty years ago. Today, 1 in 200 people in Mongolia lives in extreme poverty.

  8. One successful project in fighting poverty is the Alternative Livelihood Project (ALP). ALP has been conducted in a rural area of South Mongolia by the U.N. Development Programme and in collaboration with the local government and organized groups of local residents. The primary purpose of the project was to improve disaster preparedness and economic sustainability in the local economy. Support from the U.N.D.P. and the local government has helped local residents access training and start new businesses. Local residents were also better able to access wider markets for their existing businesses thanks to the U.N.D.P.’s connections elsewhere in the country.

  9. Pollution is a serious problem for the health of urban residents. Air pollution has been shown to significantly impact life expectancy throughout the world. Last year, UNICEF declared air pollution in the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, to be a child health crisis. The agency noted that Ulaanbaatar has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world during wintertime, with pollution rates reaching as high as 133 times the safe levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

  10. One initiative working to fight air pollution is the Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project. The project is the result of the collaboration between Ulaanbaatar’s city government, the Mongolian national government, the World Bank and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Between 2010 and 2015, the project distributed 175,000 low-emission stoves to impoverished residents of Ulaanbaatar. Most of the residents living in ger or small detached homes in Ulaanbaatar experience disproportionate levels of poverty. As a result, they heat their homes in wintertime using their stove. The new stoves that the project distributed had 98 percent lower emissions than older models of stoves, reducing pollution during winter months. Furthermore, in 2016, the project helped 200 households to insulate their homes.

 

While the effort to improve life expectancy in Mongolia faces significant challenges, progress is being made. The Mongolian government is collaborating with the United Nations Development Programme on several programs to reduce poverty, including improving economic policy planning and enhancing opportunities for entrepreneurship in rural areas. Furthermore, many organizations have worked with local organizations and governments in Mongolia to improve healthcare in a variety of ways. And while some indicators, such as economic growth, have tended to fluctuate, others, such as infant mortality, have uniformly improved in recent years. Even though challenges remain, these top 10 facts about life expectancy in Mongolia show that the future is bright.

Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Mongolia
Mongolia is run by a multi-party democratic government that has made major strides in social accomplishments since the transition from a single party government.

After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia needed to regulate its economy since the Soviet Union and the Eastern European bloc were Mongolia’s only trading partners.

With both partners inaccessible after 1991, international financial organizations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the International Monetary Fund advised Mongolia to transition from a planned to a market economy.

This resulted in the privatization of the country’s assets, elimination of government subsidies, reductions in government and a balanced budget.

These dramatic events heavily influenced the education of women and their position in the labor industry.

The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mongolia will highlight the benefits, struggles and social situations girls in Mongolia face when it comes to their education.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Mongolia

  1. Since 2002, rates of female unemployment and poverty have increased despite the economic growth of the country. The percentage of women living in absolute poverty remains above 30 percent.
  2. Thousands of women lost their jobs after the Mongolian economy transitioned from a planned to a market one. The percent of the female labor force is estimated to be at 5.7, a 0.7 percent difference from the world’s average of 5.0 percent.
  3. The dominant attitude toward women in the country is that they are primarily responsible for housework and children. The Time Use survey from 2007 showed that almost 70 percent of housework is run by women, equivalent to 5.6 hours per day in comparison to 2.7 hours for men. In low-income families, income generated by males is usually used to pay for the girls’ education. The social idea that men are considered physically stronger to survive heavy physical work such as mining, herding and construction result in parents more inclined to enroll their daughters in higher education. The traditional practice of making the youngest son heir to family property may also be another reason for parents desiring to keep their boys at home.
  4. The collapse of the Soviet Union sparked a “reverse gender gap”. More women are in higher education than men because many Mongolian families began sending their daughters to school and university in the capital of Mongolia. Many parents believe that their daughters will take better care of them in their old age. Others believe women need to learn other skills than herding livestock and housework.
  5. The literacy rate for females that are 15-24 years old is at 97.3 percent, which is higher than for males of the same age that are at 94.1 percent. The net attendance ratio for secondary school participation from 2008-20012 is at 95.2 percent for females, compared to males who stand at 90.7 percent.
  6. Despite the fact that Mongolian women are better educated than their male peers, statistics show that they are less likely to make use of this education. According to a study launched in the Mongolia capital, Ulaanbaatar, the gender gap in labor force participation has more than doubled in the last two decades, exceeding 12.6 percent in 2018.
  7. In poor households, women work longer hours than men because families are beginning to depend more on subsistence production, which is deemed the female’s job in Mongolia. Many women are urged to stay home rather than pursue alternative economic opportunities, compromising their health and education. The shift to a free market economy has led to a persistent wage gap, inefficient investments in education, and loss of contributions for women to improve in economic growth.
  8. Employed women earn less than 12.5 percent per month than men on average. According to the National Statistics Office and World Development Indicators, men are 10 percent more likely to participate in the labor force at 68 percent compared to women at 58 percent.
  9. The Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation established a university scholarship program for Mongolian women in the summer of 2010. The program was supported by the Asia Foundation and its local partner, the Zorig Foundation. The competitive program selects 60 girls from low-income families to attend the National University of Mongolia and the Mongolian University of Science and Technology. Many women decide to enroll in science fields, increasing the representation in the advancement of technology and innovation.
  10. The World Bank suggests that gender gaps can be reduced by improving the legal and regulatory environment that tackles gender-specific constraints. Specifically, enforcing anti-discrimination policies, monitoring gender indicator and upgrading eldercare and childcare services will encourage more women to hold more secure, entrepreneurship jobs. Long-term measures to decrease the gender norms and discriminations among employers and providing access to finance and training will allow women entrepreneurs to realize the full potential of their businesses.

Mongolia is addressing the challenges that face women in education. Reducing the school dropout rates, especially in rural areas, improving the coverage and quality of preschool education, and upgrading the teaching quality are some ways Mongolia is working to achieve universal primary education of 100 percent.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mongolia highlight the gender disparities between women and men in education.

In order for Mongolia to efficiently address the issues women face in the labor, economic and entrepreneur industry, as well as unemployment, the obstacles women are facing in the education system must be corrected and revised.

– Aria Ma

Photo: Flickr

Ger Districts in Mongolia
Mongolia is changing rapidly. A society that had a not so distant past defined by nomadic herding on the steppes has become heavily urbanized in only a few decades. Today, around 70 percent of Mongolians live in cities. Nearly half of the population lives in the capital of Ulaanbaatar alone.

This quick change was set in motion in the early 2000’s by a booming new mining industry that promised the opportunity for those willing to move to the cities. It hasn’t come without drawbacks, though. As the economy stalled in recent years, the steady stream of jobs and money dried up. Every year, thousands of Mongolians moved to the cities, but the cities weren’t ready for them.

Finding no place for themselves in the developed parts of cities, these people set up semi-permanent camp in ger districts on the outskirts. Gers are the traditional tent dwellings of Mongolian nomads. While they are tested against the harsh conditions of the Mongolian steppes, they have not adapted well to the urban environment.

Difficulties in the Ger Districts

Ger districts are home to a significant part of the Mongolian population. Nearly 800,000 people live in Ulaanbaatar’s ger districts alone. That’s more than 25 percent of all Mongolian citizens. With this in mind, the poor living conditions that these people face are especially concerning.

The districts have very limited access to utilities and infrastructure. Residents do have access to electricity, but they must purchase water from government kiosks. Waste removal is also inefficient and infrequent.

Few homes in the ger district can tap into to the city’s heating system. Around 85 percent of households rely on wood or coal-burning stoves for warmth. These stoves are inefficient and are a massive source of pollution, especially in the winter when they must be kept burning throughout the day. They are one of the primary reasons that Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted places in the world.

The hastily-constructed districts have poor transportation infrastructure as well. A lack of street lights means that crime rates rise after dark. Most roads are made of dirt and are difficult to keep passable and safe. Public transportation is rare, which leaves many people in the ger districts unable to travel to the schools and jobs that enticed them to cities in the first place.

Building the Apartments

Improving living conditions in the ger districts is a difficult task, but one that the Mongolian government is taking seriously.

One of the most straightforward ways to move forward is to develop apartment complexes for people living on the outskirts of cities. This would help address several problems at once.

Apartments are much easier to integrate into the city’s heating system. Bringing each ger into the system could cost from $2,000 to $4,000, while apartment units would only cost less than $500. Apartments are also better insulated than gers, which means heating would be cheaper and more efficient in the long run. Reducing the use of stoves necessary for so many gers could also mean a significant improvement in Ulaanbaatar’s pollution problem.

Unfortunately, the apartment-building strategy has several problems. Real estate is expensive and difficult to develop in Mongolian cities. The cost required to overcome these challenges also often prices poor ger district residents out of apartments once they are built. Financial services like mortgages are unavailable, which further compounds the problem.

However, while the long-term transition of ger residents into modern living spaces will require both time and economic reforms, many smaller programs have already been able to help people in their daily lives.

Implemented Programs

An example is the World Bank’s Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project. The project provided home insulation and almost 200,000 energy-efficient stoves to the capital’s ger districts. After the project, air pollution in the city dropped for four years in a row. Pollution is on the rise again today thanks to a steadily increasing population, but the project is proof that even more moderate interventions can make a big difference.

This year, the Asian Development Bank announced the $80 million loan to develop sustainable, eco-friendly mini-districts within the larger Ulaanbaatar ger districts. Other international groups like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have also offered aid to the Mongolian government with financing and infrastructure.

It is clear that the problems faced by ger districts are complicated and will not be solved overnight. The Mongolian government and economy are still very young and development will need to be approached carefully.

However, while the people of the ger districts are caught in transition, they have not been forgotten. Improvements are already being made and will continue to be made as long as the cooperation between Mongolia and the international community can continue.

– Joshua Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mongolia
In 1990, Mongolia transitioned from a Soviet-era single-party system to a democratic system with free elections. The new government prioritized developing the nation’s fledgling economy. International investors soon turned their attention to Mongolia’s rich natural mineral deposits and helped the country take its first steps into the global market. But as the industry in Mongolia grown, harsh winters and the promise of urban jobs have created tension between Mongolia’s traditional nomadic past and its modernistic future. In the text below, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Mongolia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mongolia

  1. Modern Mongolia has strong ties with its traditional nomadic herding culture. Much of the country’s rural population still follows this lifestyle. However, nearly 70 percent of the country’s three million people live in urban centers today with nearly half of all Mongolians in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar alone.
  2. Thanks to the newly-established mining industry, Mongolia had one of the fastest growing economies in the world in the early 2010s. This economic boom drew many rural Mongolians to major cities in search of jobs.
  3. Mongolia’s new prosperity did not come without complications. The country’s economy is reliant on international investments and fluctuations of global prices of metals like copper. When both of these factors faltered in 2014, Mongolia’s economic growth stumbled. As a result, the supply of good, high-paying jobs dried up.
  4. In 2016, nearly 30 percent of Mongolians lived in poverty. However, this news should be taken in context. Despite troubling increases in poverty that occurred in recent years, the overall poverty rate has still fallen more than 9 percent since 2010.
  5. The nomadic herders of rural Mongolia are vulnerable to harsh natural conditions on the steppes. Some years, their herds are decimated by a dzud, the Mongolian term for a severe winter that causes the death of livestock. These fierce winters can kill millions of animals and ruin herders’ livelihoods.
  6. Despite the slow economy, as many as 40,000 rural Mongolians migrate to cities each year. Many of these people are either unable or unwilling to give up their traditional dwellings– round tents called gers. These gers sprawl around major urban centers like Ulaanbaatar in what are known as ger districts. As many as 800,000 Mongolians live in these areas.
  7. The traditional dwellings mentioned above are adapted to provide shelter against Mongolia’s harsh winter, but they lack full access to water and sanitation. This helps explain why almost 40 percent of Mongolians do not have access to improved drinking water sources, while one-third of urban citizens and more than half of rural citizens do not have proper sanitation facilities.
  8. The ger districts do not have access to their cities’ heating utilities and so they must rely on stoves for warmth in the winter. These stoves are are massive collective source of pollution and have contributed to making Ulaanbaatar one of the most polluted cities in the world.
  9. Unemployment has fallen to manageable levels in the country but is incredibly high in the ger districts, perhaps as high as 60 percent.
  10. While the Mongolian government’s earliest efforts focused primarily on developing the economy, it’s now turning its attention toward infrastructure and programs to improve the lives of its poorest citizens. The Asian Development Bank has been a major partner in some of these efforts, including providing a $320 million loan for infrastructure improvements in the capital.

Moving Forward

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Mongolia show both the unique challenges the nation faces and the encouraging steps it has taken to improve the lives of the citizens of the country. While hundreds of thousands of Mongolians are currently trapped between their traditional lifestyle and a modernized one, the government is already working with partners and investors around the world to address the crisis.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

Air Pollution in MongoliaThe air pollution rates in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, exceeded the international safe limit set by The World Health Organization by seven times, causing a health crisis, particularly among Mongolia’s youth.

The Ger Districts in Ulaanbaatar

Air pollution in Mongolia is caused, in part, by Ulaanbaatar’s topography, climatic conditions, peaking population, lacking infrastructure and heavy reliance on coal for up to eight months of the year. Ulaanbaatar was built in a river valley with surrounding mountains that trap the city’s smog.

Nearly half of Mongolia’s population – 1.5 million – resides in Ulaanbaatar where the vast majority of Mongolia’s air pollution crisis is caused by those living in the ger districts in the north. Named for the traditional nomadic dwellings of Mongolia’s herding lifestyle, a ger is a circular tent with bedding and furniture surrounding the stove: the one thing making the harsh climate of Mongolia bearable.

Ulaanbaatar’s severe air pollution problem stems primarily from the unplanned and inadequate urban planning of the ger districts. Due to uncertainty regarding land ownership and migrant workers’ relocation to the city in search of work, the ger districts have sprung up all over Ulaanbaatar. Ger areas lack basic services, such as sewer systems, running water and trash collection.

As the world’s coldest capital, Ulaanbaatar can see temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit/Celsius – contributing to the population’s heavy use of coal to keep warm. In fact, to keep warm from the harsh Mongolian weather, Ulaanbaatar residents have burned over a million tons of raw coal per year. In 2016, Ulaanbaatar surpassed New Delhi and Beijing as the capital with the highest levels of air pollution in the world.

Dangerous Effects of Air Pollution on Children

In the last ten years, Mongolia’s air pollution crisis and, consequently, related respiratory diseases have increased dramatically. The effects of air pollution in Mongolia are felt most severely by the country’s children. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to air pollution due to their small lungs and their still-developing immune systems.

According to UNICEF, children living in Ulaanbaatar have a high risk of getting lower respiratory infections than those living in rural areas. Airborne chemicals and toxins associated with air pollution can also complicate pregnancies, starving the fetus of oxygen, which can cause birth defects like irreversibly stunting brain growth or result in miscarriages. Children exposed to these toxins are more likely to have lower IQs, exhibit behavioral problems and neurological disorders.

UNICEF Mongolia warned of a “child health crisis” in February 2018. Data from the reports of health officials suggests a 3.5-fold increase in fetal mortality rates between summer and winter, and a “near-perfect correlation between still births and air toxicity.” Respiratory infections have nearly tripled and pneumonia is the second leading cause of death for children under five.

The High Cost of Air Pollution

The National Center for Public Health and UNICEF released a joint report in February 2018 highlighting the severity of Mongolia’s air pollution crisis. The report states that unless Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution levels drastically decrease in the next few years, the cost of treating air pollution-related diseases in children will increase 33 percent by 2025.

In addition to the health risks associated with air pollution – stillbirth, preterm birth, lower birth weight, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and death – Mongolia’s air pollution crisis is also costing the public health system MNT 4.8 billion per year (just over $2 million) by 2025.

The residents of Ulaanbaatar have become desperate to rid themselves of the pollution. Stores and pharmacies have begun selling “lung tea” and “oxygen cocktails,” though WHO officials say there is no evidence that these Russian-made “anti-smog” products work. Pregnant women are among the products’ most avid buyers.

What is being Done to Reduce Air Pollution in Mongolia

Realistic recommendations to reduce the severity of Mongolia’s air pollution crisis include strengthening public education campaigns to increase awareness of the health issues associated with air pollution, use of clean technologies and fuels and greater use of the Pneumococcal Vaccine, which will have an immediate impact on the children of Ulaanbaatar exposed to heavy air pollution.

Furthermore, improvement of indoor air quality in public kindergartens, schools and hospitals as well as guidance for the public on the use and access of high-quality face masks will greatly help reduce the effects of Mongolia’s air pollution.

In March 2018, the government of Mongolia went to The Asian Development Bank to request financial assistance to address Ulaanbaatar’s severe air pollution problem. This policy-based loan will help to prioritize and expand upon public resources for pollution reduction efforts and update urban energy and transport systems, encouraging cost-effective actions.

Some individuals are taking Mongolia’s air pollution crisis into their own hands. Odgerel Gamsukh, a 34-year-old architect, has started a company to turn the unplanned and heavily polluted city of Ulaanbaatar into a green community. This community would be comprised of solar-heated, permanant ger structures, which would add windows, solar collectors and insulation to the traditional model.

Both the problem of air pollution and the solutions, i.e. green building, are relatively new to Mongolia. Traditional Mongolian culture involved a nomadic lifestyle expressed by the mobile ger homes. Modernization, increasing urban populations and inadequate infrastructure have exacerbated the health issues related to air pollution in Mongolia. If efforts such as Gamsukh’s green community and foreign aid assistance programs continue, there is hope of seeing a reduction in Mongolia’s air pollution crisis.

– Kara Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Mongolia
From a single party rule to a multi-party democracy, Mongolia has sought to accommodate more of its people’s demands, particularly in the advancement of girls’ education.

In 2000, the average time spent by girls in school was 9.4 years, but by 2010, it had increased to 14.6 years. The government’s effort in funding the development of more rural classrooms and educational resources has been inspired by the hope of reducing the high rate of teen pregnancies, as about a third of the population lives in rural areas that lack access to reproductive healthcare and education.

Improving Girls’ Education in Mongolia to Spur Economic Growth

As with decreasing global poverty, decreasing discrimination against women is also an investment in accelerating economic growth. The United Nations Development Programme, along with its U.N. partners, has worked towards closing gender disparities, such as in primary education. Approximately a third of Mongolia’s labor force consists of livestock herders, but higher access to education has increased young girls’ opportunities to seek jobs in other sectors.

These efforts have been fruitful: the number of women working in non-agricultural sectors has increased from 35 percent in 1990 to 41 percent today. As reported in 2014 by the World Bank, women own or partially own almost 40 percent of Mongolian firms.

 The State of Progress in Girls’ Education  in Mongolian

Although Mongolia can now boast of its position at 53 out of 159 countries in gender inequality globally, the gender disparities in the workforce still run particularly deep, as exhibited through women’s limited access to economic opportunities, unequal salaries, and their higher rate of inclination towards unreliable, informal work away from entrepreneurial sectors. The full benefits of the progress made in girls’ education in Mongolia have been limited by such inequalities.

To maximize the advantages of increasing girls’ education in Mongolia, other factors that commonly require a woman’s time and attention should be considered. Females are traditionally assigned the role of nurturing family; therefore, increasing construction of more eldercare and childcare facilities would provide more girls the chance to prioritize their education or job. More access to early-childhood education will also yield the same empowering effect for women, especially those living in rural towns.

Teenage fertility is especially high in Mongolia, at 40.4 childbirths for every 1000 girls between the ages of 15 to 19. Unwanted pregnancies are also relatively high in this age range as 14.1 percent of pregnant girls have abortions. These factors, left often unattended, limit the educational opportunities that girls can now seek.

Location also plays a huge role in determining the level of access to education for young girls. About 55 percent of students achieve secondary education, but this holds true for only 45 percent of students in rural areas. Children from rural areas must often confront inhibitions to accessing education, such as seasonal challenges and poor infrastructure.

Support of Girls’ Educational Opportunities in the Sciences

In 2010 the Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation, partnered with The Asian Foundation and the Zorig Foundation, introduced a university scholarship program for Mongolian girls that would pay for four years at the National University of Mongolia and the Mongolian University of Science and Technology for 60 girls from low-income families. This program is geared towards providing girls with opportunities in the sciences since Mongolian girls are largely underrepresented in those fields.

Even though more than 60 percent of university students are female, there remains a large discrepancy in the number of men and women in the sectors related to science and technology. By focusing on improving education for girls in this subject, Mongolia is expanding its labor force to fields beyond agriculture, which has consistently faced major setbacks due to natural disasters.

In 2010, Mongolia suffered a dzud, which is a national disaster of a drought in the summer followed by a severe winter, and lost almost 20 percent of the nation’s herds. One-third of Mongolia, whose livelihoods rely on herding, could no longer afford university tuition for their children, so this scholarship program would succeed in providing an education for specifically poor, rural girls.

The country is currently focused on its development through its minerals sector. Major infrastructure projects in developing mines are underway, and skilled workers are in high demand. Investing in girls’ education, so that more girls may access a job in this sector, is also an investment in Mongolia’s economic development as the country gravitates towards a more stable means of income.

By accounting for these factors in improving gender parity, developments in areas such as location and rethinking traditional gender norms and attitudes, Mongolia can improve education for girls and yield more long-term sustainable change. As women are more likely to pursue tertiary education, Mongolia will only benefit from addressing these different factors in helping women achieve educational success, and subsequently, inclusion in sectors significant to Mongolia’s economic prosperity. The butterfly effect of these developments in empowering women will continue to ripple throughout Mongolia’s poverty-reducing progress.

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr

How Mongolia Is Growing
Mongolia is most known for its world conqueror, Chinggis Khaan; yet, within a few generations of his death, Mongolians returned to the steppes in what is current Mongolia and have since undergone political changes — first being subjects of China off and on, and eventually creating its own self governing communist party in the early 1900s.

Opportunities and Challenges

In 1991, Mongolia changed to a democratic government which sparked new opportunities as well as challenges. Mongolia has taken an unassuming role in world politics in recent history, but with its population increasing and investors hovering, Mongolia is coming into a new place in the world order.

When Mongolia changed from a communist form of government to a democratic government, it actually set the country’s growth back. This was in part because Mongolia relied so heavily on Soviet assistance that when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) dismantled the assistance, it almost immediately disappeared. Since then, Mongolia has really made strides righting itself.

Mongolia

Mongolia is the most sparsely populated nation in the world — the country is six times the size of the United Kingdom, while the U.K. has 21 times its population. Ironically, more Mongols (Mongolians who live in China) live in Inner Mongolia, China than Mongolia itself — 4.2 million versus 3 million.

Low population as well as a semi-nomadic lifestyle for most citizens has put Mongolia at a disadvantage to becoming a world leader; however, as the younger generation comes into adulthood, a call to action is taking place by asking more from their government.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Mongolia was worth over 11 billion in 2016. From 2011 to 2013, Mongolia saw 10 percent economic growth per year, but its GDP started dropping in 2014. This trend is generally attributed to the Mongolian government signing a mining agreement with private company Rio Tinto for rights to Oyu Tolgoi (OT) which set foreign investors off. Mongolia is growing still, but at a slower rate of just about one percent per year now.

Call for Improvement

The government relationship with Rio Tinto has sparked controversy with the economic drop and discussion over the disproportionate allocation of profit. Many outside parties believe the profit should be an equal split between Rio Tinto and the government as they are co-owners of the OT mining company. In reality, Rio Tinto receives 70 percent while the government receives 30 percent.

There has been some dispute on these numbers, with Rio Tinto attempting to advertise that the people of Mongolia are winning by walking away with 71 percent of the profit from the mining operation. This debate has spurred many to call for greater transparency in the government so as to expel corruption.

Surviving the Elements

The mining industry brings wealth to the country, but creates few jobs. Most of the jobs in the country (about 35 percent) work in animal husbandry, a sector of farming, which accounts for about 10 percent of the total export income. Almost 7 percent of households own at least one animal, with 69 percent of those being herding households.

About 50 percent of Mongolians population live in gers. This breaks down to about 35 percent of those inside the capital city and 90 percent of those outside it. Gers have been around since Chinggis Khaan’s time, and are ideal for a semi-nomadic lifestyle, easy to put up and take down and well-equipped for the extreme cold of Mongolia. However they obviously don’t have indoor plumbing or electricity, making them the poor man’s option for the city.

Education and Growth

Luckily, Mongolia is growing in educational opportunities; for instance, there are school options in the ger districts. Most schools in the area are stocked by non-profit organizations such as The Asia Foundation, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and Library For All. Those attending school are relatively high in numbers, although the numbers do drop as children go through the education system.

In 2015, the gross enrollment rate in primary education (ages 6-10) was 117 percent (over 100 percent accounting for those repeating or who came later), dropped to 93 percent for lower secondary (ages 11-14). While basic literacy is not a problem, an estimated 18 percent of children drop or are pulled out of school early to assist with work or money for the family.

Overall Mongolia is growing into a new age. It is still strapped down by difficulties of the past, and made some recent poor choices, but the population of Mongolia wants more from its country. This desire will serve as the drive that brings Mongolia onto the world stage.

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr