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

Girls' Education in Vietnam
Since its formation in 1987, the U.S. diplomatic relationship with Mongolia has remained incredibly strong in the areas of development, security, and trade. Mongolia sits in an interesting geopolitical position due to its shared borders with China and Russia. As China and Russia continue to act as rivals to U.S. military and economic policy, Mongolia becomes more significant component to U.S. foreign policy in Asia and Eastern Europe. Although total foreign assistance to Mongolia is relatively small, the U.S. has benefited greatly from ensuring a future of peace and democratic idealism in Mongolia. 

A Democratic Mongolia

Mongolia has often referred to the U.S. as its most important “third neighbor.” At first glance, the value of providing foreign assistance might seem elusive. In comparison to the Russian and Chinese titans, Mongolia’s value may seem inconsequential. This couldn’t be further from the truth. As popular support for democratic institutions begins to increase in tempo, Mongolia serves as a beacon of light for democratic values in the region. Since 1990, the year in which Mongolia formally became a democratic country, over 10 elections has occurred on the legislative and presidential level. The continued success Mongolians have seen in democratic institutions has bolstered the over-arching U.S. mission of spreading democratic ideals across the globe. This is one major way in how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mongolia. 

The Education Vehicle

Within the same vein, English has been made mandatory in Mongolia’s educational system since 2005. Furthermore, Mongolia has committed roughly $600,000 to the Fulbright master’s program, which has greatly increased the total number of Mongolians studying in the United States. A newly launched program in 2017 gives Mongolian high school students the chance to study abroad in the U.S. Continued sponsorship and foreign aid in programs such as these not only gives Mongolians access to U.S. universities and schools but also helps carry the torch of U.S. democratic values to less accessible regions of the world. In this case, particularly Russia and China. 

Geopolitical Ally

In recent years, tensions between the U.S. and Russia have increased due to the Crimean crisis and civil war within Ukraine. The Russo-U.S. relationship has remained relatively frigid since these cataclysmic events. Mongolia’s shared border and partnership with the U.S. gives the latter country increased geopolitical proximity to the Kremlin. Within the realm of conflict, Mongolia also has deployed troops to support the U.S. effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. sponsored a program entitled “Khan Quest,” which was aimed at improving Mongolian military competency at home and abroad. Providing military support in Mongolia has allowed the U.S. a slight buffer to Russian influence in Asia. This is how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mongolia. 

Aid

In 2015, the Mongolian economy grounded to a halt after a long period of growth and prosperity. Prior to the crash, U.S. exports to Mongolia totaled in around $650 million. The U.S. aid budget to Mongolia for FY19 is $1.75 million, all of which will be dedicated towards peace and security. As a target for U.S. exports, foreign assistance to Mongolia becomes increasingly important. Holding a strong partner in exports is another way in how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mongolia.

– Colby McCoy
Photo: Flickr

solidarity lendingFor too long, the plight of the urban poor had monopolized the concerns of those working to eradicate abject poverty. The millions of people in rural poverty have been forced to toil in silence, overshadowed by their urban counterparts and underrepresented by the advocates of economic development. Most are relegated to subsistence agriculture, making the best of what little they have. However, a renewed emphasis on the rural poor has facilitated new and innovative techniques to help, among them solidarity lending.

One such pioneer is SHARE Micro Finance Limited, which offers loans to rural women in India in an attempt to fund entrepreneurship among the rural poor. Recently, a number of studies have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of such programs, with some encouraging results. An article from the Stanford Graduate School of Business tells the story of Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist from India. Khosla described solidarity lending as a “virtuous pyramid scheme” where groups of women are given modest loans from SHARE. This program differs from individual loans because “the group members are under strong social pressure not to default…and if one person does, the others have to make up for it”.

The program empowers women to invest the money in a stall at the local market or use it to invest in equipment which enables them to produce or transport their items more efficiently. To some, this may seem like only a marginal benefit, but Khosla reports that among nearly 200,000 clients, 77 percent saw reduced poverty.

To test the feasibility of such programs further, a study on solidarity lending was conducted in Mongolia, which compared the results to those of regular lending practices. Research showed that while repayment rates were similar, food consumption increased among group lenders, an encouraging sign to researchers.

Another study on group lending conducted by the African Growth Institute in Kenya revealed that “microcredit is an important entrepreneurial tool in alleviating poverty”. They also found that group lending was a way of achieving greater financial stability.

Because of innovative initiatives like solidarity lending, the rural poor are better equipped to prosper. By providing groups with much-needed access to financial capital, farmers from India to Mongolia to Kenya are no longer overlooked.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Flickr

credit access in Mongolia

In 2016, 43 percent of Mongolia’s herders owned less than 200 animals, limiting their ability to access credit from lenders. Without credit access, these herders face challenges to produce hay for the winter, build animal shelters and move their herds long distances to reach sufficient pastures. However, efforts are being made to improve credit access in Mongolia.

 

USAID’s Reach Project

In June of 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Development Solutions NGO launched the Reach Project to support Mongolia’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Reach Project’s main goal is to improve and scale access to credit for Mongolia’s SMEs by helping them find appropriate financial products for their needs and to qualify for loans. The U.S. government expects the two-year project to improve Mongolia’s economy.

“SMEs make up 20 percent of Mongolia’s GDP, but they don’t have efficient financial resources,” said Mongolia’s U.S. Ambassador Jennifer Galt. Additionally, 75 percent of Mongolia’s SMEs would need more collateral assets in order to take out loans. “We will provide real support to small business through the Reach Project to meet their demand,” Ambassador Galt said.

The Reach Project takes place in Mongolia’s Dundgovi, Selenge, Bayan-Ulgii and Dornod provinces. The Reach Project also partnered with the government of Mongolia’s Credit Guarantee Fund. The fund can provide credit guarantees of up to 60 percent of individual loan amounts to Mongolia’s SMEs.

 

Positive Effects of Mongolia’s Rising Credit Access

On June 28, 2016, an executive summary from Mongolia’s retail sector revealed that the country’s improved credit access facilitated a further rise in disposable income. Mongolia’s banking sector has expanded rapidly in the past few years and there is now a multitude of non-bank financial institutions and credit cooperatives. Improved credit access in Mongolia has dramatically boosted the average Mongolian’s spending power as well.

Mongolia’s central bank also implemented a successful price control program that brought inflation to 2.6 percent in 2013, 6 percent in 2014 and 5.8 percent in 2015. Mongolia’s price stability could have a positive effect on consumer spending and should similarly affect demand for high-quality retail space. Rising credit access in Mongolia has led to increased sales for the country’s retailers and has motivated international brands to open stores in Ulaanbaatar.

 

Web-Based Collateral Registry

In February 2017, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs, launched a web-based collateral registry for Mongolia. The registry was part of a joint initiative to reform Mongolia’s secured transactions and improve the country’s financial access for SMEs. This reform would take place by facilitating lending against Mongolia’s movable assets as collateral.

Improving Mongolians’ credit access will also be a key factor in the collateral registry. The registry will enable creditors to search for Mongolia’s existing interests on movable assets and file security interest on the collaterals they approve. “Mobilizing movable collateral to boost access to finance, especially for MSMEs, can play a significant role in Mongolia’s sustainable economic recovery and job creation,” said Tuyen Nguyen, IFC’s representative in Mongolia.

 

Looking Forward

USAID’s programs will continue to focus on increased credit access for Mongolia’s SMEs. USAID is also collaborating with Mongolia’s government to strengthen the capacity of SMEs by helping them adopt accounting practices, gain financial access and develop business plans. In December 2017, USAID also announced plans to strengthen the financial literacy of Mongolia’s SMEs and help them access loans worth $25 million.

While more Mongolians have gained credit access, there is still much work to be done. On Feb. 5, 2018, the Heritage Foundation revealed that Mongolia’s economic freedom ranked 125th worldwide. Improving credit access in Mongolia will continue to be a priority for many entities and possibly attract more efforts to decrease the country’s financial dilemmas.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in MongoliaMongolia sits between Siberia and China and harbors the northern tip of the Gobi desert, desert plains and its legendary steppes. These inhospitable environments do not easily lend themselves to the cultivation of crops. In response to their harsh surroundings, Mongolians developed a society around animal husbandry that has served them well over the millennia. Unfortunately, the introduction of the Soviet system in the early twentieth century, combined with an increase in adverse weather conditions due to climate change, have damaged sustainable agriculture in Mongolia. Today, the Mongolian government, in conjunction with other nations and international aid organizations, is fighting to make Mongolia self-sustaining agriculturally.

Seventy-three percent of the land in Mongolia is used for agriculture and makes up 13.3 percent of the country’s GDP. Less than 1 percent of that land is arable. This land is located mostly in the north, where the river valleys allow for irrigation. Some land in the center of the country is used for the cultivation of wheat and barley, or hardy vegetables such as potatoes, cabbage and carrots. Some fruits and vegetables are grown in and around cities.

The European Commission on International Cooperation and Development sees these small-scale gardening projects in and around cities as an excellent way to help Mongolians improve their food security. Because much of Mongolia’s fruits and vegetables are imported, the urban poor of Mongolia’s cities have less access to these foods. To increase sustainable agriculture in Mongolia and access to food, the EC helped to construct glass and plastic greenhouses in and around cities in Mongolia. The growing season for the beneficiaries increased from six to nine months and 3,000 people are now able to sustain a balanced diet.

Small-scale projects like the one led by the EC are helpful to a few people in a small area, but in time can grow to impact and influence people on a larger scale. Time is not on Mongolia’s side. Climate change has increased the presence and power of two major enemies of sustainable agriculture in Mongolia: desertification and dzuds, extended periods of harsh winter conditions.

Since 2006, the FAO has funded and supported projects to increase the sustainability of agriculture in Mongolia. Most of the funding goes to the livestock industry. The FAO, along with the Mongolian government, wants to increase the security and sustainability of herders and their livestock. This is based on both economic and historical precedents; 72.6 percent of land in Mongolia is used as pasture.

In 2009-2010, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 9.2 million heads of livestock, or 25 percent of the Mongolian livestock population, were killed due to a dzud. FAO emergency funds for the Mongolian project were used to protect the livestock in the seven most affected provinces immediately following the dzud and help replace the animals that were lost.

Urbanization and mining also contribute to the loss of pasture lands. Not all farmers are able to obtain assistance from the state after the loss of their animals during dzuds or the average harsh climate of Mongolia. Many of these farmers and their families are forced to move to cities to find work, food, and shelter.

Climate is not the only factor in the loss of farmers or pastoral lands. The edges of the Gobi desert are slowly creeping forward deeper into Mongolia, affecting the grasslands near deserts. Changes in weather patterns often whittle away at the grassland and help spread the desert soil and sands further. Tin, copper, coal, tungsten and gold are just a few materials that lie beneath the surface of Mongolia. The mining has been useful in improving the economy but is detrimental to the environment and sustainable agriculture in Mongolia.

Sustainable agriculture in Mongolia will improve with time. By working with different international bodies the government has proved that it wants to improve this sector of the economy. Food security and sustainability will also improve the quality of life in Mongolia. Hopefully, once again the families of the steppes will be able to live self-sustaining lives, now in conjunction with the Mongolians of the cities.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr


For the past few years, Mongolia has experienced a detrimental cycle of harsh weather conditions that has been termed “dzud.” Winters are defined by temperatures at -40 degrees Celsius or below, and spring shortages of food and water lead to intense loss of livestock. To top matters off, droughts in the summer make everything from vegetation to livestock to families suffer.

Herders predict the loss of their livestock and quickly attempt to sell what they have in the market for profit. They do this in order to save up money for another expected rough winter. However, when many herders try to do the same thing at the same time, the market value of each animal decreases and farmers end up without enough money to survive.

USAID documents that on January 20, 2016, the government of Mongolia officially declared dzud conditions and announced that the country was in need of immediate assistance. Humanitarian aid to Mongolia was vital.

Fortunately, the response was rapid. With help from the Mongolian government, and the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) assessed the situation and determined which groups were most vulnerable.

The plan wasn’t designed to put a long-term solution into play that would save Mongolia’s economy, but rather provide the necessary tools and resources to prevent death among thousands during the brutal winter. Basically, CERF provided humanitarian aid to Mongolia in the form of multi-purpose cash assistance for people at risk that allowed them to purchase essentials. In total, the U.N. provided $2.4 million to Mongolia through CERF. These funds bought basic but necessary food items, reproductive health kits for women and food and care for livestock. As a result, approximately 19,076 people received assistance necessary to beat starvation and death.

Without this form of humanitarian aid to Mongolia, thousands could have died or lost loved ones. Aside from saving lives, CERF strengthened the ties between Mongolia and international agencies, both aid and governmental. When countries are in need of assistance, this example in Mongolia shows that the international community is capable of responding rapidly and effectively.

— Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

Though it has had one of the most rapidly growing economies in recent years, Mongolia has also seen its economic growth decreasing. The country’s economic growth rate was at a high of 17.5 percent in 2011 but had declined to 11.7 percent by 2013. The inclusivity of Mongolia’s economic progress has also been an issue recently with 35.5 percent of rural populations in poverty, compared to 23.2 percent of urban populations. Despite these negative statistics, there are projects in place to address not only Mongolia’s economic pitfalls but also other areas of development. Here are five development projects in Mongolia.

 The Export Development Project

The Export Development project was launched by the Mongolia Ministry of Finance and the World Bank. Its main aims are to help enterprises strengthen their capabilities in exporting and to increase access to export markets. James Anderson, the World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia, has hopes that the project will boost the country’s employment, productivity and overall entrepreneurship.

Another aim of the project is to address the issue of Mongolia’s lack of inclusivity in its economy by supporting inclusive economic growth. The International Development Association will aid in accomplishing this aim by funding the project with $20 million. Launched in early 2017, the project will be implemented by the Mongolian government in the next four and a half years.

The English Education and Community Development Project

The Peace Corps orchestrated the English Education and Community Development project with the goal of building English language skills among students in Mongolia. The project serves all 21 districts in Mongolia and will train English teachers to teach English as a useful resource for the further education of Mongolian students.

The Peace Corps offers different ways to teach the students, including individual teaching and co-teaching with Mongolian teachers. Volunteers also assist in creating and hosting teaching seminars and helping with camps and clubs along with their Mongolian colleagues.

The Nature Conservancy’s Sustainable Development Project

The Nature Conservancy works not only with the Mongolian government but also with local communities. Its goal is to design a blueprint for sustainable development in Mongolia. The Conservancy has worked in multiple areas such as the Eastern Steppe and the Gobi region.

In the Eastern Steppe, the Conservancy works to protect and maintain the important grasslands that are essential for herding communities and for uncommon wildlife to thrive. One of their main goals is to push development away from the wildlife areas that are precious to Mongolia.

These efforts are echoed in their work in the Gobi region where they try to provide help in making decisions about where development should occur. Their overall aim is to support a more sustainable country.

Community-Based Health Project

The Community-Based Health Project, also created by the Peace Corps, aims to promote better health in Mongolia through ways such as improving health education. They operate in 15 districts, both rural and urban. The volunteers work with teachers to educate students about healthy life skills.

In addition to promoting healthy skills, this project also aims to promote the prevention of diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. Though they may work a lot with younger students, this project includes both children and adults in their education and promotion of health.

Community Youth in Development

Building off of their work of educating kids about health, the Peace Corps also works to empower youth. Their Community Youth in Development project strives to meet their goal of empowerment among youth by building up their personal, social and educational skills. One of the project’s aims is to provide youth with more life opportunities through the building of these skills.

In order to meet these goals, the volunteers facilitate life skills clubs, some which are specialized to better help dorm students and disabled kids. To further build off of these skills, the Peace Corps organizes summer camps and service learning to better develop life skills among the youth in Mongolia.

Though the country faces a myriad of obstacles when dealing with its economy, health and opportunities for its youth, there are a multitude of development projects in Mongolia aimed at improving these areas. The programs have a wide array of focuses, including Mongolia’s economy, the health of its people and empowering the country’s youth. These projects demonstrate the willingness of people, both within and outside of the country, to help in Mongolia’s development.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

Education in Inner Mongolia

Education in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China, has been growing substantially over the past few decades. It offers compulsory education in both primary and secondary schools, and education for children ages three to six has been expanded in preschools in some districts. Students from Mongolian ethnic groups attend Mongolian-language elementary and high schools and are assigned jobs by the government upon graduation. They can also choose to pursue advanced education.

In Inner Mongolia, ethnic education displays typical features which also represent the foundation of harmonious coexistence for multiple ethnicities. For instance, in 2012, each Han Chinese child received a subsidy of ¥2,700 yuan for kindergarten education expenses, while each child from a Mongolian ethnic group received a subsidy of ¥3,900. A few more public kindergartens were built in the following years in addition to the existing 17 kindergartens in Ejin Horo Banner.

Take Hohhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia, as another example. There are 10 ethnic middle schools, 19 primary schools and 11 kindergartens in Hohhot, with a total of 44,000 students, among which 15,000 (34 percent) are ethnic minorities. 5,031 students in seven schools (two middle schools, one primary school and four kindergartens) are taught in Mongolian.

Teaching Mongolian as a supplemental language is a distinguishing feature of Inner Mongolia. In this category, there are 24 schools with 8,820 students in Hohhot. There are seven schools for the Hui nationality and two for the Man nationality. In ethnic primary and secondary schools and kindergartens, there are 3,913 teachers, among which 1,473 (38 percent) are of a minority ethnicity. Among those teachers, 110 of 456 language teachers are teaching Mongolian in the schools.

While great achievements have been accomplished, there are some deficits of ethnic education in Inner Mongolia, mainly an imbalance of students in the different grades. Students are relatively crowded in some schools (especially senior high schools) in major cities such as Hohhot. This overcrowding may result in students skipping preschool education and going directly to primary school. Meanwhile, due to a lack of space in junior middle schools, current primary school graduates may lose out on the opportunity for further education. Senior high schools are at risk of a student shortage due to the smaller amount of junior school graduates.

Secondly, the existing classrooms, facilities and teachers are far behind the current requirements which are urgently needed in order to expand. While Mongolian kindergartens in some districts are likely to increase the number of students enrolled in Mongolian classes, problems such as insufficient facilities, a shortage of teachers and the inconvenience of transportation due to suburban locations call for immediate attention.

On June 17, 2009, at a symposium on the present status of ethnic education, 27 participants from 12 different institutes proposed an agreement to end the merging of fundamental ethnic schools and instead expand and enlarge the scale of Hohhot ethnic schools as quickly as possible. In the following years, the layout of schools among different urban regions has been adjusted to meet the needs of both local and migrant students.

To further improve the state of education in Inner Mongolia, local governments should strive for support from the central government and promote the development of ethnic education. The number of schools teaching Mongolian should be expanded. Active and strong measures must be adopted to strengthen trilingual teaching (Chinese, Mongolian and English). In addition, internal management of each school should be even stricter, for the purpose of expanding feature-based construction of schools and propagating multi-ethnic cultures.

The protection and development of culture and education for ethnic minorities are of paramount importance to build the foundations for sustainable, balanced and healthy development, not only for ethnic regions, but also the entire country.

– Xin Gao
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