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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.
Both IMR and the U5-MR have decreased significantly over the past five years. Comparing 2000 to 2005, the IMR has declined by 36 percent - from 64 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to an estimated 40 per 1,000 live births in 2005, and the U5-MR has declined by 41 percent - from 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 51 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 (MICS 2005). If this trend can be sustained it should be possible to reach the recently revised and ambitious MDG goals for IMR and U5-MR. Mortality risk is higher for male infants and children under 5 years than female infants and children by nearly 80 percent.
Maternal mortality rate (MMR) has been improving year by year with 70 per 100,000 live births in 2006 from 158 in 2000. The improvement is related to health system that use safe delivery referral care approach since 2000 in which UNICEF has supported through safe motherhood health project.  
 
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2005 demonstrates positive signs of declining underweight by 50% (13 percent in 2000 and 6 percent in 2005) and stunting by 16 percent (25 percent in 2000 and 21 percent in 2005). However, National Nutrition Survey 2004 reveals that 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.
The Second National MDG report indicates that 66 percent of the total population has access to the improved water sources and only 23 percent of the total population has access to the improved sanitation with very important urban rural discrepancies.
As elsewhere, reliable data on child protection is a limitation for effective measurement of outcome performance and evidence-based advocacy. There is anecdotal evidence that violence against children and women, abuse and exploitation of children including trafficking is on the rise and building a protective environment for children is a major challenge for UNICEF Mongolia.
 
Overall, the situation of children remains positive at an national aggregate level. However, emphasis on reaching children in the disadvantaged remote rural areas as identified in the Convergent Basic Social Services programme remains a major focus of attention within the framework of a rights-based approach. 
   

© UNICEF Mongolia/2006/Zigor Adama
Children attending a ger kindergarten in rural Mongolia for early childhood development

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.

 

 

 
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