Since Mongolia broke ties with the former Soviet Union, it has been racked with instability and poverty. While the country enjoys democratic representation, its market economy has floundered and foreign assistance has become essential to Mongolia.
The U.S. government alone has appropriated over $11 million in foreign aid to Mongolia in 2014. That money has become an absolute necessity to the people of Mongolia, where 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
One of the most striking problems this poverty has spawned is the issue of hunger and malnutrition in Mongolia. More than five percent of children under five are severely malnourished, and nearly 30 percent of the population is undernourished.
On top of that, Mongolia’s depth of hunger — a signifier of the intensity of food deprivation — is one of the worst in the world. Mongolia ranks 22nd in its depth of hunger rating, just behind North Korea.
While the incessant poverty in Mongolia is the primary cause of hunger there, a variety of other factors exacerbate the problem.
Its foremost problem is that of harsh winters which have devastated Mongolian livestock recently. In 2010, the UN allocated $3.7 million in emergency aid to Mongolia after a particularly cold winter that followed a summer drought. The winter consisted of heavy snowfall, high winds and thick ice.
All told, this winter — and recent winters like it — have killed approximately four million livestock, representing about 15 percent of national stocks. The loss of livestock has not only caused a national food shortage but a migration into cities which led to increased unemployment, inflation and poverty.
Inadequate preparedness for natural disasters is one of the primary causes of hunger in Mongolia. International efforts to stem the tide of malnourishment in Mongolia should focus on preparing the country for severe winter conditions in the future.
Though poverty remains a specter for Mongolia, if it cannot survive winters without suffering extreme depletion of its food stocks, the country will never be self-sustainable. Foreign aid to Mongolia must look to the root cause of its hunger problems rather than simply aim for generic poverty reduction.
Harsh winters have proven to be a major cause of hunger in Mongolia. Fortunately, it is a problem that can be overcome by establishing the proper protocol for disaster management.
– Sam Hillestad