Water Quality in MongoliaBordering Russia and China, Mongolia, the landlocked country in northeast Asia, has been experiencing more severe and frequent effects of climate change. Among several of these issues, water quality and scarcity are at the top of the list. Mongolia’s unique landscape is comprised of sparse rivers, lakes and springs that flow from the wooded northeast, leaving most of the east and south with a desert climate.

Of the population that is just under 3 million, about one-third to one-half reside in the capitol, Ulaanbaatar. The people of Mongolia traditionally practice a nomadic lifestyle.  Second to mineral industries, Mongolians rely heavily on livestock as a major economic driver. Needless to say, water quality in Mongolia has a profound effect on this industry, as well as on the health and well-being of its people. Threats to water supplies exist both in urban and remaining rural communities. A lack of water quality infrastructure has led to contamination of water supplies, and unregulated use has resulted in scarcity in some regions.

In the last few decades, Mongolia has also made a transition to democracy and has introduced a market economy across the nation. Issues have arisen since the adoption of this new system that have directly affected water usage, such as wealth gaps, overgrazing and collapsing value systems and traditions. Desertification, premature melting of permafrost and water pollution have also increased along with the growing effects of climate change. As a consequence of drier rivers in the northern region, many have had to rely on groundwater resources, which made up roughly 80 percent of Mongolia’s water consumption in 2010.

One solution that Mongolia is exploring is a pipeline that would stretch across the steppe that comprises the majority of the country. While this project may ensure more sanitary and abundant water supplies, there has been no advancement on this project due to the high cost and labor burden that it would pose. Although projects like these may be costly and inefficient, it is important that sustainable options are being explored and debated as the water quality in Mongolia continues to decline.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Mongolia

How to help people in Mongolia? Over 27 years after the revolution that would lead Mongolia to a democratic form of government, the country faces social and economic issues that have yet to be resolved. Mongolia’s current poverty issues are mostly connected to its climate and natural disasters such as severe snow storms over the winter and droughts during the summer. The characteristic nomadic way of living is slowly fading because of how animals, as well as their owners, are gravely affected by such climate conditions.

As a country whose economy relies on agriculture and cattle raising, such natural impacts destroy Mongolia’s economy from the root. Thus, Mongolia’s poverty is higher in rural areas than in major cities.

The Red Cross has been successfully helping Mongolia’s population during the “dzud,” a natural disaster seen only in Mongolia that is distinguished by its severe low temperatures. 2010 was the culminating point, when eight million animals were killed by the natural phenomenon.

By working hand in hand with families within the affected communities, the Red Cross has provided supplies, shelter, physical and emotional support throughout 17 different provinces across Mongolia.

Ways to Help People in Mongolia

But the different ways of how to help people in Mongolia encompass more than the effects of extreme weather, and therefore have to be tackled with a variety of concepts and strategies.

The United Nations has been working with Mongolia and its citizens to develop an integrated national system as well as macroeconomic plans, which were previously lacking. These strategies have decreased unemployment and reduced poverty due to their economic impact in the country.

The organization People in Need have been working with the country of Mongolia for decades. The NGO ensures access to healthcare for habitants in remote locations, distributes food around the country and helps rebuild rural areas after harsh weather events, among other forms of aid.

How to help people in Mongolia is a question with a simple answer. Creating and spreading awareness is key, and the companies mentioned above and many more are successfully doing this every day. There is hope for Mongolia.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Mongolia Poor
Between one third and one half of Mongolia’s population currently lives in poverty. Since the nation ended their Soviet-style communist regime in 1990, many impoverished Mongolians have been wondering why the advantages of capitalism have not yet reached them. After nearly three decades of reform, why is Mongolia poor?

Since the turn of the 21st century, Mongolia has fostered great development. Income and school enrollment have risen, while sanitary concerns and maternal and child mortality have declined. However, the nation’s success has not been equal in all areas and has not had the desired impact on alleviating poverty.


Why is Mongolia Poor? Investments and Inequality


While economic growth is necessary for human development, human development is not necessary for economic growth. Between 2009 and 2013, Mongolia’s GDP rapidly increased by $8 billion – primarily a result of foreign investment in the country’s natural resources. Despite this flow of capital, there has not been a satisfactory increase in more and better job opportunities; thus, impoverished families are not able to lift themselves out of poverty and share in the new wealth.

Not only are not enough jobs being created, but most lower-class Mongolians are unqualified or under-educated for the advantageous jobs that are present. Furthermore, adequate job opportunities are not present where poor Mongolians live, so they must resort to low-productivity work that only provides enough income to sustain their livelihoods rather than improve them. In turn, the nation’s wealthy get richer while the impoverished remain poor.

Since 2013, Mongolia’s economic growth has slowed, with its GDP dropping over $1 billion in three years. The economic slowdown, while not drastic, raises concern for the country’s most vulnerable and how the downturn will affect them, considering the previous upturn was not doing much to help them.

To answer and address the question of why Mongolia is poor, the nation must focus on equal and quality access to jobs and education. Fortunately, Mongolia has the tools to succeed and is currently implementing strategies such as the National Plan of Action for Decent Work and the National Employment Promotion Programme. Investing in education will also be crucial for increasing the population’s employability and potential for the generations to come.

Mongolia’s rapid development is worth celebrating, but to ensure the nation’s long term success the country must work toward closing the gap between the rich and the poor and evenly dispersing their development. Only when the entire population has the capability to succeed will Mongolia reach its full economic potential.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in MongoliaThe decrease in the poverty rate in Mongolia is a slowly developing story that is trending in the direction of success. As of 2015 – due to Mongolia not publishing reports detailing its poverty statistics on a regular basis – the country’s poverty rate stood at 22 percent, which marks a decrease from its previous rate of 28 percent.

While this rate is still dramatically too high, it demonstrates that the correct efforts are being taken to decrease the poverty rate in Mongolia and should be studied and replicated in other impoverished countries.

Of the information available regarding the poverty rate in Mongolia, it is even more impressive that the country has managed to reduce its poverty rate in both its urban and, even more so, its rural environments. Urban poverty is typically easier to weed out because urban environments often see the benefits of economic development, which unfortunately take significantly longer to reach rural areas.

In the years 2012 and 2014, rural areas in Mongolia saw their poverty rates fall by nine percent and accounted for half the reduction in poverty during that two-year period. This decrease in poverty can be attributed to the spurt of economic growth that Mongolia has experienced over the past decade. Mainly due to the growth of its mining industry, Mongolia has enjoyed double digit growth rates, significantly helping to generate income for the country’s poor population.

That the Mongolian economy relies on mining, however, may prove to be its downfall and may force the poverty rate in Mongolia to once again take an upward turn. As the demand for coal and copper – Mongolia’s primary mineral resources – continues to fall, it will become imperative to develop a new industry to support the ongoing drop in its poverty rate.

Assisting in the reduction of poverty in Mongolia is the growth of its capital Ulaanbaatar. As it continues to gain significance in Asia and the rest of the world, it will allow for more money to be diverted to poverty reduction efforts and allow more jobs to be created. By creating more jobs in Mongolia’s capital city, people will increasingly be able to save money and eventually climb the economic ladder out of poverty.

– Garrett Keyes

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Mongolia

Mongolia is a landlocked country in Asia with a population of just over 3,000,000. This East Asian nation is home to a small, yet geopolitically significant refugee population. Here are 10 facts about those displaced refugees in Mongolia:

  1. The World Bank’s most current data shows that there were nine refugees in Mongolia in 2015. This obviously ranks Mongolia behind neighboring countries China and Russia, which both have around 300,000 documented refugees. However, this miniscule number does not reflect the reality of refugees in Mongolia.
  2. Refugees in Mongolia are mainly from North Korea. The North Korean defectors live there, often briefly, under a tenuous balance between Mongolia-U.S. diplomatic relations and Mongolia-North Korea diplomatic relations.
  3. Hundreds of North Korean refugees pass through Mongolia each month before being repatriated in South Korea. Refugees in Mongolia from North Korea choose one of two common paths to defect to South Korea. One option is to travel north from North Korea through China into Mongolia before flying to South Korea.  The other route they take is to go south through China and into Laos and Thailand before boarding a plane to South Korea. North Korea expert and head of the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Relief Fund Stephen Noerper once estimated that each month, 500 North Koreans pass through Mongolia.
  4. North Korean refugees must pass through China in secret before arriving in Mongolia. China’s alliance with North Korea means that North Korean defectors will be sent back to North Korea if caught in China. Defectors who are caught often face brutal treatment and forced labor in North Korean concentration camps.
  5. Their journey to Mongolia is treacherous. Besides having to sneak through China and past Chinese border patrol, refugees in Mongolia must pass through the Gobi Desert, a cold desert that stretches hundreds of miles.
  6. Mongolia has long said it will humanely treat North Korean refugees. Mongolian Prime Minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar has publicly sympathized with North Korean defectors.
  7. However, Mongolia’s position on North Korean defectors remains unclear. Mongolia has stepped up its border patrol in recent years and has several agreements with North Korea.  This includes accepting thousands of migrant workers from the one-party state.
  8. On the other hand, Mongolian border patrol agents have let North Koreans into the country, and Mongolia remains an ally of the U.S.
  9. Refugees in Mongolia from North Korea often make their way to the South Korean embassy. There, they are taken care of and able to book a flight from the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar to the South Korean capital of Seoul.
  10. The number of refugees in Mongolia from North Korea is decreasing. According to the Korea Herald, stricter North Korean border patrol has caused the number of North Korean defectors to drop 21 percent already in 2017.

Though their numbers may seem small, Mongolia still plays a crucial role in aiding North Korean refugees and defectors. Mongolia’s situation reminds us that even helping a handful of individuals has an impact on both personal lives and international relations.

David Mclellan

Photo: Flickr

Mongolia, a country in central Asia, has some of Earth’s most beautiful mountains and wonders. Despite its abundance of natural resources, lakes and rivers, water quality in Mongolia has begun decreasing at an alarming rate.

Climate change is one of the largest factors in Mongolia’s decreasing supply of drinking water; many lakes and rivers continue to dry up. The land in southern Mongolia around the Gobi desert has had an increase in desertification as climate change emphasizes the unequal distribution of drinkable water between Mongolia’s mountain region and its drier areas.

Mongolia’s economy relies heavily on herding culture, an industry that requires accessible drinking water nationwide. However, the presence of so much livestock also poses a threat to public health, as the lack of infrastructure around water supply often leads to contamination.

An increase of urbanization and an economic reliance on mining have also contributed to the gradual pollution of groundwater resources in Mongolia, the country’s main source of water outside of mountainous regions.

However, multiple organizations have implemented plans to address these growing concerns for water quality in Mongolia. The Water Supply and Sewage Authority (USUG) aims to supply safe drinking water to an estimated 1.2 million people living in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. USUG has a three-year program to maintain sustainability and is a pilot project of a larger organization: the WHO/AusAID Partnership on Water Quality, created in 2012.

The Mongolian government has implemented several revisions in policy, such as an order for the Compulsory Establishment of Centralized Water Supplies, and the Methodological Guidance on Water Safety Plans for Small Communities, established in 2015.

Awareness among water-related government agencies is another crucial part of the process toward higher water quality in Mongolia. Water safety plans (WSPs) advocate for such awareness among water suppliers, health facilities, academic institutions and inspection agencies.

Meanwhile, The Asia Foundation works at the local level to ensure smaller towns and herder communities can protect their water. The process for such awareness spans from the household levels of conservation, city-wide treatment and sanitation, and global climate change-related activity. All of these issues intersect in Mongolia’s water supply, with WSPs ready to take action.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2002, chronic diseases caused 13,000 out of 19,000 deaths in Mongolia. Of these, 30 percent were caused by cardiovascular disease. Various types of cancers caused another 21 percent of the deaths.

In 2015, 75 percent of men and 79 percent of women were overweight. Based on data presented by the WHO, focusing on implementing healthier diets and increasing physical activity could prevent 40 percent of occurrences of cancer and at least 80 percent of premature heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation spent five years encouraging healthier lifestyles in Mongolia and concentrated on early diagnosis and treatment plans of the top diseases in Mongolia, including heart disease and strokes. These two diseases alone cause 30 percent of the deaths in Mongolia, despite easy prevention. This project, which ended in 2013, funded schools and other organizations that encouraged healthy practices in the community and worked closely with the Mongolian government to increase funding for public health programs.

The Regional Office for the Western Pacific portion of the WHO looked at life expectancy rates in Mongolia and found that between 2010 and 2030 both women and men can expect a significant increase in life expectancy. Men are estimated to live 16.2 years longer and women 19.6 years. It is also estimated that the population of individuals over the age of 60 will outgrow the population of people 14 and under. They warn that this increase in the older population of the country will also lead to an increase in the occurrences of cardiovascular diseases since the elderly are more susceptible to these types of diseases and issues.

Furthering research and instituting prevention and interventions will be able to prevent this major increase in cardiovascular and other diseases of this nature.

Similarly, the Millennium Challenge Corporation believes that through programs that work to improve the health of Mongolians, the country is securing a better future and aims to target the youth of the nation, teaching them a healthy lifestyle before they become more susceptible to these top diseases in Mongolia.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About the Mongol Empire and Mongol Conquests
While not known as a major player on the global political stage, once upon a time, Mongolia was the largest contiguous land empire in the world. The Mongols originated their empire in the steppes of central Asia when Genghis Khan unified the nomadic clans of Mongolia and led a years-long campaign of conquest in the 13th century. At its prime, the borders of Genghis’ empire stretched from Central Europe and Siberia to the eastern Chinese coast and Arabia. Here are eight facts about the Mongols, their culture and their conquests:

  1. Kublai Khan ordered two campaigns to invade Japan in 1274 and 1281. The campaigns were ultimately unsuccessful, however, as the Mongol fleet met with a powerful typhoon during both campaigns, which wiped out between 60 and 90 percent of their forces. This massive upset became an important event in Japanese history and suggested that despite the strength of the empire, Mongol conquest had its limits. The intervention of nature during these battles became known as kamikaze, or “divine wind”, a concept that the Japanese turned to once again in WWII.
  2. Scholar and writer of The Secret History of Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford, says that as Genghis Khan built his empire, he solidified the Mongol Empire’s control over conquered territories by securing strategic marriages for his daughters. For example, his daughter Alaqai married into the Onggud tribe while Al-Atun married a prince of the Uighurs. Upon marriage, Genghis made sure his daughters became their husbands’ principal wives.
  3. Medieval Mongol Empire warfare relied mostly on mounted archers. Mongolian cavalry favored the Mongol recurve bow when riding into battle. This type of bow has limbs that curve away from the archer, allowing the bow to lend more potential energy and speed to the arrow. Being smaller than other bows, the Mongol recurve bow was also a less-cumbersome weapon for a soldier on horseback. Scholar Jeanine Davis-Kimball also points out that horseback riding and archery were martial arts that could be easily learned by both men and women, making Mongol society a bit more egalitarian.
  4. The Battle of Xiangyang in 1273 was a key victory for Kublai Khan’s Yuan Mongols, one that gave the Mongols, even more access to the Southern Song heartland. The Song eventually surrendered to Kublai Khan’s Mongol forces in 1276, and the incorporation of the Chinese into the empire resulted in some sinicization of Mongol culture, meaning that the Mongols adopted some Chinese customs and values such as the reinstation of the Civil Service Examination.
  5. After Kublai Khan conquered the Song Dynasty and declared the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty, he moved the capital of his empire from the Karakorum in Central Asia to Khanbaliq, the site of present-day Beijing.
  6. In 1231, Genghis’ son Ogodei ordered a campaign of conquest on the Korean Peninsula, which was then known as the Kingdom of Goryeo. The campaigns continued until 1270 when the king of Goryeo signed a peace treaty with the Mongols and Korea became a Mongol vassal state.
  7. Genghis’ grandson, Hulagu became the Great Khan in the kurultai of 1256. As Great Khan, Hulagu ordered a series of campaigns in the Middle East. Under his rule, the Mongols captured Baghdad in 1258, and the Abbassid Caliphate became a part of the growing Mongol Empire.
  8. The Mongols, along with other nomadic central Asian cultures of the time, practiced sky burials or the practice of leaving the bodies of their dead out in the open to be exposed to the elements and eaten by carrion birds. The ritual is a part of a branch of Buddhism practiced by the Mongols known as Vajrayana. According to Vajrayana Buddhism, death is simply a transmigration of the spirit, therefore corpses are merely empty vessels that ought to be disposed of in a generous way, such as decomposition or as food for birds. The custom is still practiced today in parts of Mongolia and Tibet.

These are just a handful of fascinating facts about the Mongol Empire, but the story of the Mongol people didn’t end with the fall of the empire. Today, Mongolia is a fast-growing economic frontier full of sprawling steppes and desert, rich with minerals. They’ve since abandoned their military campaigns of conquest and transitioned to democracy and a market economy. Though Mongolia is not known as the most outspoken state today, one wonders when and how Genghis’ people will next stun the world.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr

Palliative CareAccording to the Quality of Death Index, developing countries are typically “unable to provide basic pain management due to limitations in staff and basic infrastructure.”

However, Mongolia recently exceeded expectations, ranking 28 out of 80 countries in the 2015 Index. The country’s success is largely due to its National Palliative Care Program which was spearheaded by Dr. Odontuya Davaasuren.

Palliative care is defined as a multidisciplinary approach to medical care for people with serious illnesses.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 40 million people require palliative care each year especially in countries with aging populations and where the incidence of noncommunicable diseases is high.

In Mongolia specifically, 79 percent of deaths are the result of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Davaasuren was first inspired to create the program after participating in the 2000 Palliative Care Conference in Stockholm. In a letter to the International Palliative Care Resource Center (IPCRC), Dr. Davaasuren said she was amazed that such a program did not exist in her country.

However, turning a dream into a reality was no easy feat for the Mongolian doctor. Many of Dr. Davaasuren’s assertions were initially met with criticism during the program’s introduction.

For example, the use of opioids as a form of treatment was traditionally frowned up because health care providers feared that patients would become dependent on the drugs.

Per her IPCRC letter, the doctor held steadfast to her belief that “It is a human right to receive palliative treatment, even when the disease is not curable” and continued to work on introducing the program.

The National Palliative Care Program was created based on four foundational measures: public health policy changes, the indispensability of available drugs for palliative care, the education of health care professionals in palliative care, as well as the actual integration into the overall national health care system.

Notably, since 2005, all medical schools in Mongolia integrated palliative care into their education programs.

At the 67th World Health Assembly in January 2014, the World Health Executive Board called on health systems worldwide to improve upon their palliative care systems. According to the WHO, doing so is “fundamental to improving the quality of life, well-being, comfort and human dignity for individuals.”

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: IPCRC, Odontuya Davaasuren et al., Quality of Death Index, 2015, United Nations, World Health Organization
Photo: Google Images