Nearly half the population of Mongolia’s capitol, Ulaanbaatar live in “ger” districts. Gers are small circular huts that traditionally serve as portable homes for people on the move. Climate change, uncontrolled mining, and a post-Soviet economic collapse has left many thousands of once proud nomadic herder families now migrants – squatting in massive, permanent ger encampments surrounding the capital city.
Most have no running water, sewage system, or paved roads. Unemployment rate in the ger is 60%. Alcoholism is rampant. As is child abuse.
Kindergartens, which start at age two, are massively overcrowded. Schools are often closed in winter months due to toxic air pollution caused by dangerous coal stoves in almost every ger. Small children suffer from constant respiratory disease and are frequently too sick to attend school or even go outside.
Many mothers who have young children to care for face the difficult choice of either staying at home and not having the opportunity to work and generate income, or leaving their young children alone at home all day, locked inside with a hot stove. Not surprisingly, injuries and even death are not uncommon.
We began our work in Mongolia with a small project in a state-run day nursery where we brought the OneSky Approach to benefit 180 very young children who were failing to thrive. The nursery, which previously focused only on nutrition, had no programs to address children’s social and emotional needs or healthy development. Besides fitting out the rooms with age-appropriate developmental toys and furnishings, OneSky hired additional caregivers and trained them along with existing caregivers, in providing responsive care.
Now we’re ready to do more!
The young mothers of the ger have large families and large plots of land but little else. The majority of them would like to both work and take care of their children. OneSky is now exploring the feasibility of training mothers to create and operate affordable ger childcare centers on their own land, providing both quality loving care for young children and livelihood for young mothers.