Launch of the International Year of Sanitation in Mongolia
Launching of IYS:
On March 20, the Government of Mongolia launched the International Year of Sanitation. The launch was attended by officials from Ministry of Nature & Environment, Ministry of Construction & Urban Development and Ministry of Health, Provincial Governments, UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and IFRC including diplomatic missions.
The event, which took place at the Government House, featured a photo exhibition and displayed on water and sanitation activities. The following day, a technical round table meeting was held to develop an action plan on sanitation and hygiene.
Ms. Dolgor, Adviser of the Prime Minister, delivered the opening remarks on behalf of the Prime Minister. In his message, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of collective actions of all stakeholders to ensure safe water and adequate sanitation. The message stressed that 2.6 billion people globally were living without access to adequate sanitation, which is often overlooked. He mentioned that around 88 per cent of deaths caused by diarrhea were due to a lack of access to sanitation facilities and safe water for hygiene and drinking purpose.
Dr. Bertrand Desmoulins, the UN RC a.i and UNICEF Representative emphasized the large disparity for access to sanitation between rural and urban population. “We know that with the high internal migration from rural to urban areas, particularly to Ulaanbaatar, these migrant populations have very poor access to water and adequate sanitation. If this challenge is not addressed now, we are increasing the likelihood of having a major environmental disaster at hand with even higher incidence of water borne diseases such as infectious diarrhea and Hepatitis”, said Dr. Desmoulins.
He also mentioned that only 16 per cent of district hospitals and 28 per cent of district schools have access to water of which only 50 per cent meet safety standards for drinking water.
In order to overcome these challenges, he stressed three points that would change the sanitation and hygiene situation in Mongolia: First, we should seriously consider changing the MDG-7, Target 10 upwards if we want to provide access to safe sanitation and prevent a major health hazard in Mongolia. National target for MDG-7 by 2015 is 50 per cent, which essentially means that the remaining 50 per cent will be without access to adequate sanitation.
Second, the Government and their partners need to implement the existing policies and take action to reach the sanitation target.
Third, we need to mobilize communities, particularly disadvantaged groups, to change sanitation and hygiene practices through campaigns and health education on sanitation.
The presenters stressed that there is need for increased access to improved water supply and sanitation situation through investments in infrastructure and capacity building, protection and restoration of freshwater resources and the need to reduce the vulnerability of populations to water-related diseases.
The presentations were followed by questions and comments by participants. Mr. Ya Sanjimyatav, Chairman of Standing Committee of Environment and Food & Agriculture, read out the draft recommendation and the actions towards improving the sanitation and hygiene in Mongolia. It was agreed by all participants that an action plan would be developed during the technical session on the second day of the meeting.
To mark the International Year of Sanitation, UNICEF and key partners will be supporting a number of communication and public activities to raise the people’s awareness of the importance of safe sanitation and good hygiene. These activities will be sustained until end 2008.
On 21 March, technical meeting was held under leadership by Water Authority Agency with support of UNICEF. Around 70 participants from UNICEF, Ministry of Health, academic institutions, private enterprises, district offices took part in the technical meeting.
The following issues were discussed:
• Sanitation facilities in rural and urban area
Based upon above discussion, the participants were divided into six groups and plans of action were developed by each group on following areas:
At Policy level:
• Government need to take measures to issue license to mining company by taking into considerations the potential harmful impact of mining on environment and its impact on human and animal health
• Provide appropriate indoor sanitation facilities in school dormitories, hospitals and to promote hygiene education
At community and school level
• To raise awareness on hygiene and sanitation among community members, school children and students
The launch was a very good starting point to raise advocacy and awareness to break the taboo, silence and ignorance about safe sanitation, water and personal hygiene. UNICEF and other partners will continuously work to make progress to improve adequate sanitation situation in Mongolia in order to match the MDG -7 Target 10.