Young Mongolians Stand for a Healthy Future

05 April 2022
Young Mongolians Stand for Healthy Future

19 March, Ulaanbaatar - The second session of the Teen Parliament, Mongolia's Great Khural's initiative to bring the voices of young people into decision-making kicked off with a sub-programme on Healthy Diets and Healthy Future.  

High school children from all over Mongolia and adults representing Mongolia's parents, decision-makers, government officers, researchers and representatives of international organizations gathered for a half-day forum, to present evidence, share success stories, and lessons learned.  

"While preparing my presentation I found out that 1 in 5 adolescents in Mongolia are overweight and this makes them victims of bullying and discrimination. This is directly linked not only to the lack of exercising, but also to unadequate diets and wrong eating habits. Very often we don't have time for a proper breakfast before school, so we resort to junk food which is so aggressively advertised that no child can withstand its intrusive influence," says 17-year old Shinetungalag, Teen Parliament member, criticizing the absence of law on prohibiting promotion of junk food.  

Young Mongolians Stand for Healthy Future

UNICEF has been supporting the Teen Parliament since its initiation and advocates for strengthening laws and policies on healthy diets, including those on food advertising. "We see marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages targeting children on a daily basis. Introducing tax on sugar and requiring informations on food labels thar are accurate and understandable for children and families are necessary steps to undertake," says Evariste Kouassi-Komlan, UNICEF Representative in Mongolia. UNICEF is also advising the government partners to legislate to avoiding using children in advertisings of junk food and running commercials of junk foods via media channels during children’s programme hours.  

According to the National Public Health Centre’s 2019-2021 research, only about nine per cent of Mongolian school children are accustomed to reading the informaiton on ingredients and nutrition facts on labels vs about 60 per cent checking out the food products’ expiration dates and just a little over 20 per cent examining the integrity of packaging. Hence the teen parliamentarians stress the importance of advocacy work and peer-to-peer outreach and training on healthy diets, just like they advocated for clean air and environmental protection last year, after attending the first Programme of Teen Parliament on Climate Change and Air Pollution.  

The UNFAO Representative to Mongolia, Vinod Ahuja, points out that 1 out of 4 people in Mongolia experience either moderate or severe food insecurity, a challenge “that is directly linked to sustainability of food systems which is at the core of global problems of inequality, malnutrition, pandemics, climate change and governance”. According to Mr. Ahuja, investing in local solutions by supporting the local value chain development, setting up school gardens and intorducing climate smart agriculture can enhance sustainability of food systems hence reduce food insecurity.   

The UNICEF 2018 MICS study shows that stunting and wasting among children in Mongolia declined in the past two decades by 70 and 90 percent respectively. On the other side, the National Nutrition Survey 2017 exposed sevenfold increase in overweight prevalence and tenfold increase in obesity prevalence within the last decade.  

Young Mongolians Stand for Healthy Future

Child participants explained that children usually receive an average of 3,500 MNT of pocket money from their parents for lunch. According to their experience, the only affordable food they can buy during short class breaks with this money is easily available junk food as chips, lollipops, coke. "Our studies show a high rate of micronutrient deficiencies among not only children, but across the entire Mongolian population,"says Mr. Kouassi-Komlan.  

MP Bulgantuya Khurelbaatar, the initiator of the Teen Parliament Programme, emphasized the need for well-balanced, nutritious and good quality lunches in schools across all grades. Currently, in public schools, only children from 1-5 grades are served hot meals for lunches, the quality of which is widely criticized by parents and the larger public.  

"First things first", says Ariun Galbadrakh, mother of four, "I make sure my children drink plenty of water. Taking water bottles to schools is a must. And secondly, I taught my children how to cook from the early age, introducing to them all the healthy and nutritious ingredients that they can use in preparing tasty meals."  

"Until today I didn’t realize that food is so important for health,” says 16-years old Duurenjargal, a secondary school pupil from Ulaanbaatar. "I have a sweet tooth and always preferred sugary foods. But now, after getting all of this information, I understood that it is much better and smarter to prepare healthy meals with ingredients available at home, not necessarily expensive vegetables, but using meat, potatoes and carrots. With some little fantasy one can cook delicious dishes." Duurenjargal is excited to share his newly acquired knowledge with his friends at school.  

As noted by the Speaker of the Mongolian Parliament, Zandanshatar Gombojav, the strength of youth advocates is in the passion and devotedness with which they share the new knowledge with their peers. "You’ve successfully advocated for clean air and climate change mitigation during the first Programme under this initiative. Now let's do the same great job on promoting healthy diets and continue advocating for SDGs," said Mr Zandanshatar Gombojav, addressing his young friends.  

Young Mongolians Stand for Healthy Future
Zandanshatar Gombojav, The Speaker of the Mongolian Parliament.

The Teen Parliament is a multi-staged programme that was launched on 20 November 2020, World Children’s Day. Its first session focused on Air Pollution and Climate Change Awareness. Each Programme has 6 weeks-long trainings, delivered by experts in each field, ranging from governance to law and environment. The trainings are followed by advocacy work when children go back to their schools and communities and generously share the new knowledge with their peers. Ninety young parliamentarians, selected from 900 applicants from all over the country, participated in these programmes. As MP Bulgantuya said, this successful Programme supported by the Parliament of Mongolia, UNRCO, UNICEF, UNFAO and People In Need INGO is seeking to reach out to nine thousand, and further advance the transfer of knowledge to 90,000 and more children and youth through peer advocacy. 

MICS surveys 2018 



prevalence of stunting (%) 



prevalence of wasting (%) 



National Nutrition Survey 2017 



prevalence of overweight (%) 



prevalence of obesity (%) 



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Nomin Lkhagvasuren
Communication Specialist
Tel: (976) 9911 2652


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