Clean Hands Campaign Success: Mitigating the Socio-Economic Effects of COVID-19 in Mongolia

29 · Jul · 2020
Photograph by: Suniko Bazargarid | People In Need

By Jenny Simon

On January 26th, 2020, Mongolia became the second country in the world to close its borders with China as a prophylactic measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into Mongolia. As China’s northern neighbor, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic originating from Wuhan, China at the end of 2019 posed many unique challenges and risks for Mongolia.  Additionally, the government ordered all public schools and universities to shut down for the month of February, though schools remained closed for the entirety of the spring semester.  The closure of schools and other social isolation measures had a severe impact on children who rely on school for food and nutrition. 

Though the COVID-19 pandemic had brought a sudden halt to many social and economic functions in Mongolia, it was imperative that the needs of individuals themselves still be met. This prompted the COVID-19 Clean Hands Campaign, which originally planned to provide services to 250 households, but resulted in providing 2,310 children and their families with nutrition, health, and education kits. The nutrition kits included items such as fortified flour, vitamins, and rice; the health kits included items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, masks, and UNICEF leaflets on handwashing and COVID-19.  Finally, the education kits contained stationary, a coloring book, and storybook. The purpose of these kits was to alleviate the sudden burden placed on Mongolian children and their families by offering tools to maintain proper nutrition, health, and cognitive development. 

The Clean Hands Campaign was supported by organizations such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), The Ministry of Education Culture Science and Sport, the German Embassy, Friends of Mongolia, the Namuun Children’s Foundation, and the Mongolian Red Cross Society. Breathe Mongolia was one of the first partners in the Clean Hands Campaign, partnering with People In Need (PIN) to launch a fundraiser on Facebook and Paypal to raise awareness about the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mongolia. Between February 20th and May 3rd, 2020, Breathe Mongolia and PIN successfully raised over $8,000 US dollars through over 200 online donors from all over the world. 

A total, 215 million MNT (USD equivalent) went into the Clean Hands Campaign. 

  • 40 million MNT (USD) was spent on health-related items (soaps, toothpaste, masks, etc.); 
  • 21 million MNT (USD) was spent on education-related items (toys, books, stationery, etc.); and 
  • 104 million MNT (USD) was spent on food items (vitamins, flour, and rice, cereal, etc.). 

The remaining part of the budget (34 million MNT) was spent on logistical support and human resources (transportation, leaflets, worker compensation, etc.). 

Because of these donors’ generosity, PIN was able to obtain additional and substantial support from other larger organizations. The Clean Hands Campaign was supported by organizations such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), The Ministry of Education Culture Science and Sport, the German Embassy, Friends of Mongolia, the Namuun Children’s Foundation, and the Mongolian Red Cross Society

More than 17,000 people directly benefited from the Clean Hands Campaign. This number includes 804 single-headed households, 577 households where children were being raised by an adult over 60 years-of-age, 3,709 children under the age of 5, and 20 Rainbow families and their children. Many testimonials from those who have benefited from this project describe the initial hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic and social-economic response and how the assistance of the Clean Hands Campaign helped to provide needed assistance. M. Tseveennyam says, “As a result, my income completely stopped and life became harder than usual, which really affected my children too. Then, I received assistance from PIN through the MRCS. This support was very helpful and timely. All of the goods that were provided were of very good quality and useful items, which we needed very much. The support was enough for my family for 3-4 weeks.”

Although the Clean Hands Campaign should be considered a major success, it was not without challenges. Project operations were challenged by travel restrictions and road closures between aimags, maintaining transparency in this project during the election period, and collecting contact data from certain sensitive groups, such as Rainbow Families. PIN has also identified more challenges to come, specifically for small businesses and the tourism industry. Many business owners had to temporarily close their businesses, nearly 60% will require some financial assistance in their recovery, and many are at risk for permanent closure. Outside of Ulaanbaatar, especially, the decrease in operations and closures of businesses will be severely detrimental to local economies. 

Mongolia faces some of the worst air pollution in the entire world and is vulnerable to respiratory tract infections. As such, the COVID-19 pandemic further threatened the wellbeing of Mongolian children and citizens. While the threat of COVID-19 was minimized due to the Mongolian government’s quick and aggressive response, Mongolia remains a highly vulnerable country to this sort of health crisis. 

Despite the challenges Mongolia continues to face, the success of projects like the Clean Hands Campaign advocate for the power and capability of individuals and organizations to create change within the world. Breathe Mongolia is in awe of and is most grateful for all the donations, support, and compassion from all donors and contributors to the Clean Hands Campaign. On behalf of our entire team, we thank you. We hope you will continue to follow our efforts on Breathe Mongolia in our fight to eradicate air pollution.

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