Mongolia: A country of children and youth
Mongolia’s population, as of December 2007, was 2.64 million. Mongolia is a country of young people: thirty six percent of the population is under eighteen and 234.2 thousand are children under 5 years old. Sex ratio at birth is 103. Children and young people are growing up in a country that is very different from the world in which their parents were raised, where employment was assured and social services were provided for all. The last 16 years, since the abrupt transition from a centrally planned system to a market economy in 1990, have seen a dramatic socio-economic and political transformation. Many new opportunities for economic, social and cultural rights have opened up, authoritarian attitudes and practices are being challenged and there is a growing understanding that grass roots participation is at the heart of sustainable development. The Human Development Index has surpassed the 1990 level and the GDP growth rates have climbed steadily. Though transition has opened up many new opportunities, it has had negative consequences for many, particularly the most vulnerable. With rapid privatization came unemployment, bringing about one third of the population below the poverty line. With the collapse of industry in rural areas many families migrated to the city, moving into unplanned, sprawling ‘ger’ (Mongolian traditional tent) areas, with no running water and unsanitary open pit toilets, a stark contrast to the smart new apartment blocks and places of commerce which are proliferating in the centre of the city. A number of years of Dzud (a multiple natural disaster consisting of a summer drought, followed by heavy winter snow) caused the death of millions of animals, and resulted in deepening poverty and further migration for many families. The percentage of Mongolians living in poverty (32%) has not diminished significantly in the last ten years, and the poverty gap is deepening.
The Third National Nutrition Survey, conducted in 2004, identified that there are positive signs of declining underweight by 50% (12.4% in 2000 and 6.2% in 2004) and stunting by (27.4% in 1999 and 19.6% in 2004). However, there are still some micronutrient deficiency disorders existing among children. For instance, 22.9% of children under 5 are anemic (according to hemoglobin level) and 24% of children under 5 have 2 symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. The key underlying causes of this change can be attributed to strengthening and improvement, with UNICEF support, of quality of growth promotion interventions at community levels with greater involvement of family members and local decision makers in the understanding of the factors related to malnutrition and the remedial measures to be taken.
According to the National MDG report, Mongolia is well on track in achieving most of the goals and targets with the exception of poverty reduction, malnutrition and maternal mortality targets. Surveys on current status of child malnutrition, learning achievement, water quality are underway and a comprehensive situation analysis of children will be finalized before the end of 2005.