The Ministry of Education and Science (MES) is the lead agency for implementation of WASH in Schools programming in Mongolia. MES has agreed to develop improved policies and mechanisms related to WASH in schools with UNICEF support.
Since the establishment of the UNICEF Country Office in Mongolia in early 1990’s, UNICEF has been supporting and promoting WASH issues in the education sector and the local community level. During 2010-2011, UNICEF supported the reconstruction of WASH facilities in over 20 schools and kindergartens in 12 villages (soums) of 3 western, 1 eastern, and 3 southern provinces (aimags), and 3 districts of Ulaanbaatar. Some of these activities will be continued in 2012 in one eastern and three southern aimags.
Mongolia’s economic growth was 17.2% in 2011 (up from 6.4% in 2010) and is expecting to increase during the coming years, mainly due to the mining sector growth. It faces high inflation, and soaring food prices. However, a significant percentage of the population remains largely untouched by the nation’s economic growth. The poverty rate has remained stagnant at 35% nationally and 50% in rural and peri-urban areas. 73% of the poor work in low-paying jobs in urban centres or in rural herding and farming households. Nationwide, 42% of children live in poverty and 21% suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Mongolia also faces challenges related to its geography, harsh climate and lack of national road infrastructure, which make logistical planning and implementation costlier and more problematic than in many countries. Climate change has also engendered such challenges as increasingly extreme temperatures in summer and winter, water shortages, poor water quality, land degradation and desertification, all of which directly threaten livelihoods and national food security.
Overall, Mongolia is on-track for meeting the MDG 7 targets for drinking water; the sanitation target remains a major concern, as the country is off-track for rural sanitation. In Mongolia, 82% of households have access to improved water sources and around 51 % are using improved sanitation facilities. Lack of proper water and sanitation in rural schools and dormitories, where children spend up to nine months of the year, remains a critical area of concern.
Currently, local government lacks capacity to support operation and management (O&M) of the WASH facilities at the schools. However, each school receives a small maintenance budget for WASH facilities (mostly for cleaning costs) from central government via Provincial Education Departments. Therefore, a school itself will be the main responsible organization for maintenance of the WASH facilities at the school. Support must be provided to the schools in managing the systems.