Mongolia: Urban poor

Of Ulaanbaatar’s 1.3 million residents, about 800,000 of them live in ger districts scattered throughout the capital. The mix of the traditional nomadic structures, also known as yurts in Russian, and more permanent dwellings give the areas a disjointed feeling. None of the structures, no matter how permanent, have running water and many of the residents are living in poverty.

While the government gives families about $11 per month for each child, this is not enough to cover rising bills when prices are rising rapidly.

Mongolia’s economy, which suffered heavy losses following the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, has had to deal with many blows in the past decades, including natural disasters that killed large amounts of livestock in 2000 and 2009.

In 2011, however, Mongolia was heralded as having the fastest growing economy in the world with a GDP increase of 17.3 percent, or about $13.38bn, due to the mining of its mineral-rich land – primarily coal, copper and gold.

The government admits it did not spend the wealth that the nation gained from the mineral boom wisely. But now families face the choice of looking after their children or working enough to provide for them. Some parents work as much as 14 hours per day in order to provide the basics for their children.

There are urgent needs, with growing urbanisation, to care for the poor. Poverty is increasing and the poor are lagging behind the advances in other areas of society.

Pray for quality community development projects that address the marginalisation and poverty needs of the urban poor; pray for the church as it responds to this very real need; pray for transformation of society so that lives are released from the traps that bind them.

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