Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Life Underground: Homeless in Mongolia

Mongolia stands as one of the largest countries in the world, but with a very  low relative GDP and few transnational political issues, Mongolia is often forgotten and left in our periphery. The country faces extreme poverty and harsh weather conditions. Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital in the world, is home to one third of Mongolia’s three million people. In Ulaanbaatar, it is estimated that there are somewhere between 1,000 to 4,000 homeless children, and approximately 10,000 homeless people. To survive uninhabitable climates, the homeless sleep underground on the hot water pipes as a way to keep warm during the bitter winters.

According to Polis, a collaborative blog about cities around the world: "Approximately one third of the total population of Mongolia – one million people – live in Ulaanbaatar. The country has experienced rapid urbanization since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s, as many rural residents migrated to the city in search of opportunities, especially in recent years. However, since the end of communism, very little low-income housing has been built in the city and the poverty rate – currently around 36% - has not decreased. Mongolia’s GDP is reported at $1,000 and the poverty line is classified as $17 per day. The recent economic crisis has hit the country very hard, virtually stopping in mid-stride any building or housing construction; the World Bank reported that real income collapsed by about 60% between April of 2008 and April of 2009. These issues are compounded by high unemployment and alcoholism, which many homeless families resort to as a way to keep warm during the bitterly cold winters."
To read more about the conditions in Mongolia, click here

Rural to urban migration is becoming an increasingly prominent global trend as a response to rural poverty. Climate change is creating dramatic changes in weather for the people of Mongolia. Temperature changes in country are much higher than global average, disrupting and destabilizing the already venerable economy of Mongolia. To watch a PBS YouTube video about climate change in Mongolia click here. These problems, coupled with the legacy of collapsed governance, makes the situation in Mongolia extremely dire. Unfortunately these issues are not unique to Mongolia. As the world becomes increasingly more inter-dependent, most security analysts agree that we must work together to form global solutions to global problems

Friends of Humanity supports a locally managed project called Lamp of the Path that provides hot meals for the homeless of Ulaanbaatar. Read a recent update from the project here.

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