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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Protecting Mongolia's parent-less children

Originally posted on Aljazeera.com on Oct 21, 2014
by Philippa H Stewart

Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.

Abandonment rates slowed down during the economic boom, which is now coming to an end [Philippa H Stewart]

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - Most of the children at the Lotus Children's Centre, an orphanage located away from the dust and noise of the big city, have no idea how long they've been here.

Sitting on the steps outside their classroom overlooking the countryside that separates the children's centre from Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar, four boys aged between seven and 11 all shrug when asked how old they were when they arrived.

"I don't remember," seven-year-old Otgonbayar told Al Jazeera. "I have been here a long time, since I can remember. I don't know what happened to my family, I don't know anything about them."
Previously children's rights have been very vague, there was no such concept.
- Tumurkhuyag Enkhtaivan, National Authority for Children
Little is known of the backgrounds of most of the 80 children in the orphanage. Many were abandoned at birth, sometimes in hospitals, but often at bus stops or on the side of the road.

About 18 children are new to Lotus. Before they lived in an orphanage run by Catholic nuns that was closed down after disputes with the government.

They have the same answers as Otgonbayar when asked about their past, but speak French instead - a language learned from the nuns who used to look after them.

"When the orphanage closed, some of my friends went back to their families," said Batbayar, 11, who has stunted height caused by a lack of care when he was an infant.

"I can't go back, but it is good here. We go to school and there is the river and the grass."

Abandonment

Orphanage founder and director Didi Kalika told Al Jazeera when she arrived in Mongolia 21-years ago, economic instability and alcoholism among adults were major factors leading to the abandonment their children.

Definitive figures on the number of abandoned children are difficult to come by. Child rights advocates have said previously that thousands had been deserted by parents or orphaned in Mongolia, a northern Asian nation of nearly three million people.

Before the economic boom from mining in the early 2000s, children were often left to fend for themselves, or rounded up and put in prison cells.

The situation has improved dramatically thanks to the work of NGOs and new government initiatives such as the opening of a temporary children's shelter last year. However, kids with mental or health disabilities often fall through the gaps with no structures in place to help them, and few education options available, Kalika said.

"The abandonment has slowed down quite a bit as the economy has improved. When they had this mining boom, they [the government] did give money to families who had children and that has improved the situation somewhat," Kalika said.

"The mineral wealth payment meant a lot of people started looking after their kids who weren't before. Also, when the economy was up, companies invested in us."

As Mongolia's economy grinds to a halt , orphanages such as Lotus are concerned abandonment rates will spike again.

The lack of government social workers and nation-wide infrastructure to support abandoned, orphaned, and abused children means that often orphanages are put under pressure to provide care for families as well.

"A lot of the time they want us to do things with the kids and their families - like follow up if we send the kids home and deal with the families. It is too much because I already have 80 kids. The government do expect a lot of us without offering financial support," said Kalika.

"We need to deal with the kids here, we can't deal with families on the edge. We end up giving them food items and support to make sure they still look after the children once they go back home.

Kalika said, however, the government has imposed greater regulations to ensure the safety of children. "Before no one was doing anything and the NGOs stepped in ... Now we have to go through quite a few authorities to accept kids and we do get a number of inspections, so some of it is going in the right direction - I wouldn't say all of it."

No protection law

A major issue surrounding child protection in Mongolia is the lack of any law ensuring the rights of children. NGOs have been working to try to redress this, but the legislation is continually hitting delays in Mongolia's parliament.

World Vision, a Christian charity operating in Mongolia, is one of many NGOs working in the sphere of child protection. The charity is working on implementing a system of "mapping" all Mongolia's children, to make sure they are given follow up care.

Tansgmaa Tsog, public engagement manager from World Vision Mongolia, told Al Jazeera the lack of progress on the protection law was "frustrating", but the key issue is bringing child abuse into the open.

"For me it looks like there is a lot of family violence, but it is under shadows. It is kept in the family and it is not appearing in public, and we don't know how much it is happening.

"We have set up a free child [help] line, so children can report abuse, and we are trying to develop the mapping system so there is a process in place if a child is the victim of abuse."

Because of the lack of a legal framework, however, charities such as World Vision are reliant on individual communities to step in and protect a child and make the abuse known.

Sometimes, in a bid to highlight issues, children's images have been shared on social media by caseworkers and others involved.

"Someone who was working on that case revealed what had happened [on social media] and it came to public attention and caused a lot of outrage. Now incidents like this can be better prevented," said World Vision in Mongolia's communications manager Enkhbold Byambjav.

"It is a double-edged sword - you have to be very careful about what's being posted. It could be done for the good of the public, but it might give the wrong idea to the wrong people."

'Urgent' need for law

The only government agency concerning children is the National Authority for Children, which advises on policy rather than implementing it.

Deputy director Tumurkhuyag Enkhtaivan told Al Jazeera the NGOs were relied upon to provide services while the authority tried to push policies through government. She said she hoped a child protection law would be passed in 2015.

"Previously children's rights have been very vague, there was no such concept. In the new law, children's rights will be specifically mentioned," said Enkhtaivan.

Parents and police will also need to play active roles once clear laws are established, Enkhtaivan added.

"We need to show parents they have a responsibility to their children. The passing of the law is urgent," Enkhtaivan said. "We have to align all the laws and make sure that if a child is involved in crime, the police look at whether it is a form of child abuse and considers the rights of the child."



Word Definitions:
orphanage: a home for children whose parents are dead
to shrug: to raise your shoulders and then drop them to show that you do not know or care about something
to abandon: to leave somebody, especially somebody you are responsible for, with no intention of returning
stunted: hat has not been able to grow or develop as much as it should
definitive: considered to be the best of its kind and almost impossible to improve
to spike: to rise quickly and reach a high value
lack: the state of not having something or not having enough of something
to ensure: to make sure that something happens or is definite
to implement: to make something that has been officially decided start to happen or be used
reliant: needing somebody/something in order to survive, be successful, etc.
outrage: a strong feeling of shock and anger
vague: not having or giving enough information or details about something

Word MP3s:
= orphanage
= shrug
= abandon
= stunted
= definitive
= spike
= lack
= ensure
= reliant
= outrage
= vague

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Let's Run: A documentary


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LET'S RUN!!! Documentary film

My name is Suranchuluun. I was born in Ulaanbaatar, 1981. We used to live in Ger district which was at the edge of the city, with my grandmother. I used to love writing poems and was fond of reading books. Now that I think of it I was quite a straight "A" student back then.

In the 1st and 2nd grade, I used to dance as a "snow girl" and dreamed of becoming a dancer. I grew up with big dreams...

In 1994, I visited my distant cousin in the countryside, in Dundgovi province, to spend my summer holiday. The children there were very naughty, and they used to whip the horses, and the horse that I was riding was very fast. I fell and I got hurt. I landed pretty hard on my leg.

At the time, they told me that I hurt my leg pretty badly, so the elders of the area tried to treat my injury with various traditional methods using black tea with salt. However my leg didn't get any better and I stayed there for about a month.

In late August, I came into the city and checked into the hospital. They couldn't medically determine or classify what exactly my injury was. And I remember well that I went around many local hospitals. I was advised to get checked at the cancer institution and so I did.

They told me that I had bone cancer.

They said that my injury was untreated so long that it formed cancer. Because I checked in late I had to do chemotherapy and radiation therapy immediately. I had gone around to many hospitals in 1994, but wasn't diagnosed until 1995.

In May of 1995, I went under surgery to amputate my leg.

After amputating my leg, for a teenage 13-14 year old girl, it was of course very hard. I felt lonely. There were many times when I cried at the hospital. It was painful, and going through constant treatment was tiring and during those hard times, to see my mother and grandmother go around to get me food everyday was very heart aching. I think my grandma did many things to ensure I wouldn't feel lonely. She constantly said things like "You're pretty", "You're a good student", "Amazing", "You can do it." She made me feel strong and brave.

You'll never hear the end of saying how difficult it was.

My grandma used to say, "You don't advance in live using your legs, you advance using your head." And at that time, I couldn't grasp the concept. "So you're not advancing with your legs, then how can you do it using your head?" Now that I think back on it, this was a very true concept.

If someone saw another in pain and suffering and thought to themselves "what would I do if I was in their place" is the mindset my mother taught me to have. To the teenage girl who had lost her leg, her friends were very important.

After the amputation surgery, I transferred to school #81 in the district #1 as a 7th grader. My teachers name was Tsendmaa but I couldn't go due to health reasons so I decided to write my teacher a letter. But then most interestingly, you know when in September "Spartikad" happens around on Saturday where children have competitions right? Well, I had writtent he letter a week prior to that. And my teacher had read my letter in front of the whole class who I didn't know at the time. She told my sister to bring me to class and my classmates welcomed me joyfully saying stuff like "Oh come here, you're one of us now".

I didn't know that she had read the letter to the class so I casually introduced myself and some held my bags for me. They truly welcomed me beautifully. Its like the saying when a black mark is on a person, you can't wipe it off. Well, my classmates left a white mark in my heart.

Even though I went under amputation surgery in 1995, I went through various treatments until 1998-99, such as chemotherapy and radiation. While I was going through the therapies, my classmates would occasionally stop by as if they had to. They would come around two hours after class so I would wait by the window waiting to see them.

After my amputation, my classmates opened the first beautiful doorway to social communication and the environment. They were such an amazing divers group of kids. They made me forget about my pain and suffering. To the classmates, who I'm still friends with till this day, I've never felt like an outcast there. I felt like I was one of them.

Till this very day, when I walk through the school door, the memories of the other class kids who I ran into, the other class girls who greeted me with a smile. They were all so nice to me. I don't know all their names because there were so many but I am so grateful to the people who were at the school at that time. They will always be in my heart.

I met my husband in 2002. We were friends at first and started dating in 2009-10. Now we have been living together for 5 years. I casually work independently. My spouse supports me especially when I'm feeling down. He stays by me and encourages me with beautiful words. And we are on the same page as one another.

In October of 2011, I had a beautiful baby boy. The one who inspires me the most and the biggest reason why I strive to go forward, is my son.

In 2005, I graduated from the National University of Mongolia with a degree in Social Work. In September of that year, I got in the National University of Medical Sciences as a part time teacher. Along side teaching at the Health Sciences University, I am establishing a NGO named "Success Chain" in Mongolia.

The goal behind this is to use sports as a guideline to a healthy approach to life.

On the 21st of June, for the first time, we hosted a running race that consisted of 5km, 2km, and 3km races for the public.

I had two reasons for hosting this event, first, there is an invisible wall between "healthy" people and people who have a disability. People are always on either side. So, my first reason was to break down this wall so that people can live together and we wanted to send a message: "You, me and them are exactly the same." It doesn't matter if you don't have any an arm, legs, sight or hearing. It doesn't matter. We are all human beings.

We have a lot of things to think about, and in those thoughts, there are many things to be done. For example, the race that took place on June 21st, there was my grandmother who was over 70 years old. She ran through the finish line with a cane after doing the 5km race. There were people with no arms but they still raced to the finish line. A daughter holding her blind fathers hand to the finish line.

When I saw those moments, it was amazing. Next to them, I felt less. I mean, I only lost my right leg while those girls and boys in wheelchairs were racing and it moves you because they put themselves out there in public is so amazing in today's society. I can't think of any other words to describe them other than Heroic and Amazing.

There are many things that people discriminate between us. Most important things are that the perspective of how that person things of themselves, "ego". In other words, it is the thoughts of "I must do this." or "I hope I don't seem this way." "I hope they don't think of me like this and that."

On the other hand, the thought of "Can I run with this person?" the idea and understanding of going with a person with a disability is nonexistent. In a well developed country and society, they broke down the wall of discrimination. Who has been to one of those countries? I say that it is time for Mongolia to do the same.

If a goal for me is a small stepping stone, for you it might be a huge mountain. However, if we spend the same amount of effort and time into the same goal, that unity will come to life. And when that unity comes together and starts going, we will start to understand one another.

"We all suffer the same, and we all get tired the same."

When we see that we all have some needs, that wall that is in between us will eventually start to crumble and break down. We need to be together, united as one. You shouldn't think like "things are going fine with just me alone and that shouldn't happen for them." I think that "If I can do it, they can do it." That is lacking among us.

Looking at today's generation, especially the youth, children, there is a problem I see where they can't see their self value while there are so many opportunities around them, but they choose not to take them. You have all your 4 limbs, and you're so young. They why are you saying, "I can't get up", "I can't run", "I can't do sports."? It really is a shame if you think about it.

I personally think that, if there is such a thing as victory, it's not about beating or being victorious over one another, it's about overcoming the internal challenges and obstacles you face in yourself, and that is the biggest victory in life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Human Spirit: Out in Mongolia

Originally posted in The Jerusalem Post on Oct 21, 2014

‘Without saying anything, coloring in embarrassment, Saranchuluun Otgon rolled up her pant leg. Beneath the cloth were the metal wires of a prosthetic foot. Until then, no one on the staff knew.’

Otgon, wearing her prosthetic, trains for a marathon. She is leading the charge for change in Mongolia as to how people with disabilities are viewed. (photo credit:COURTESY SUCCESS CHAIN)

Saranchuluun Otgon arrived in Jerusalem in September 2007 with a master’s degree in social work from the University of Mongolia.

She was one of the 20-something students at one of the city’s most intriguing programs: the foreign student master’s degree program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Braun School of Public Health.

The course draws health professionals from far-flung countries who are dealing with some of the world’s toughest health challenges. Current students are facing Ebola, polio and HIV/AIDS, as well as ongoing issues like maternal and child health and nutrition. Nigeria, China, South Sudan, the Philippines and Haiti were among the countries represented in last year’s class, which graduated recently.

The graduates show up at the ceremony in sensational native costume, and sing emotionally in Hebrew. It’s a moment I savor every year. Then they go home, taking up challenges in cities and rural outposts; they remain loyal informal ambassadors for Israel.

When Otgon joined the program, she traveled together with a fellow student from Mongolia. The two roomed together in the campus dorms.

In case you’re unsure of where Mongolia is, remember that it’s a landlocked country bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west.

Almost half the citizens live in the capital city of Ulan Bator, infamous for air pollution and encircled by formerly nomadic Mongolians who are looking for permanent homes in the city. (By the way, the old term “Outer Mongolia” refers to the historical region of the Qing Dynasty, and is no longer in use. When I grew up, it was a synonym for something obscure and hard to find.) At the recent graduation ceremony, Dr. Yehuda Neumark, director of the Braun School, revealed a story about a former student – Otgon – that she’d finally allowed him to make public.

“Toward the end of the year of her studies, Saranchuluun Otgon came to my office. Without saying anything, coloring in embarrassment, she rolled up her pant leg. Beneath the cloth were the metal wires of a prosthetic foot. Until then, no one on the staff knew.

“The reason for her divulging this to me was that the device wasn’t working right. We quickly found our way to a prosthetic devices repair lab in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

When I asked Saranchuluun if anyone in her class knew about her foot, she said no one did except her roommate – her colleague and friend from Mongolia.

“I suggested that it would perhaps be beneficial to share this with others in the public health class, and she replied respectfully but adamantly that she didn’t want to.”

Why not? Said Neumark, “She explained that in her country, people with disabilities are stigmatized and there is no awareness for handicap accessibility issues, and if it became known, she would never get promoted very high in the system.”

So they kept it quiet. She finished the year and went home without any of the other students, or even the social coordinator and staff, knowing her secret.

But now it’s out – and not just among her students. A YouTube video making its away around the web reveals Otgon’s story. She was born in 1981 in what Mongolians call the Ger District, a hut city without basic sanitation on the edges of the capital. She was a straight-A student, and loved to dance; Otgon wanted to be a dancer when she grew up.

Horseback riding on vacation in the Mongolian plains, naughty kids spooked the horse and Otgon fell. There was no doctor nearby; the elders treated her injury with herbs and tea. When she got back to the city, doctors were puzzled by the continued pain. She was diagnosed as having cancer in her bone (perhaps a lesion that caused the weakness), and began a program of chemotherapy and radiation. When she was 13, her foot was amputated.

Not when Otgon applied for the program in Jerusalem, nor when she was accepted, did she mention her disability.

The technician who repaired her prosthesis in Talpiot was so moved by her story that he fixed the prosthesis for free, and suggested she come in for a tune-up when she was preparing to return home.

She never did share her personal health challenge with her fellow public health graduates.

Still, Dr. Neumark’s suggestion percolated.

Go public, he said. You have a story to inspire others.

Back in Ulan Bator, she became a fulltime lecturer at the School of Public Health in the Health Sciences University of Mongolia. Then she spent time at Columbia University in New York.

There too, like in Israel, there was much more openness about disabilities. Today, she’s back in Mongolia, working on her PhD. In the meantime, she’s married and given birth to a son.

Five months ago, Otgon outed her disability, showing the world her sneaker-clad artificial foot on Facebook.

She founded an NGO called Chain of Success and in April launched a Facebook group, “Let’s Run Mongolia!” This summer, she organized Mongolia’s first-ever public running event welcoming people with disabilities. Her prosthesis showing, she ran with men and women in wheelchairs, missing arms and legs, blind and deaf. Yes, out there in Mongolia.

Three-hundred participants and 180 volunteers participated in the Let’s Run Together marathons.

Several weeks ago, Otgon presented a TED talk for TED-Mongolia on stigma and social change. She was named the Mongolian Junior Chamber of Commerce International person of the year.

Otgon has a new dream: She wants to run in the 42-km. New York City Marathon! She wrote to Neumark: “It’s a big challenge! I am running to change social stigma and discrimination toward people like me. Also, I am trying to support other disabled people who like sports in my country. Now I am working on the website to gather money to buy another prosthetic leg for someone, another hand-cycle, a travel ticket for the New York Marathon, etc.”

Says Otgon, whom I met briefly when she was here, but has become a Facebook friend of mine, “I’m fed up with being discriminated against and embarrassed.”

Still, my favorite part of what she says has to do with all of us without these challenges.

“I’d like to say to all those who have two arms and two legs that they should use them… use them for good!”



Word: Definition List
  • intrigue: to make somebody very interested and want to know more about something
  • to draw: to move something/somebody by pulling it or them gently
  • far-flung: a long distance away
  • sensational: causing great surprise, excitement, or interest
  • to savor: to enjoy a feeling or an experience thoroughly
  • to room: to share a room, apartment, or house with one or more people
  • dorm: dormitory
  • infamous: well known for being bad or evil
  • to color: if something colors your cheeks, you go red because you are embarrassed
  • prosthetic: an artificial part of the body, for example a leg, an eye or a tooth
  • to divulge: to give somebody information that is supposed to be secret
  • adamantly: determined not to change your mind or to be persuaded about something
  • stigmatized: to treat somebody in a way that makes them feel that they are very bad or unimportant
  • sanitation: the equipment and systems that keep places clean, especially by removing human waste
  • naughty: behaving badly; not willing to obey
  • to spook: to make someone suddenly feel frightened or nervous
  • puzzled: unable to understand something or the reason for something
  • to amputate: to cut off somebody's arm, leg, finger or toe in a medical operation
  • to move: to cause somebody to have strong feelings, especially of sympathy or sadness
  • to percolate: if information or ideas percolate, they spread gradually and become known to more people
  • to out: to say publicly, especially when they would prefer to keep the fact a secret
  • stigma: feelings of disapproval that people have about particular illnesses or ways of behaving
Word MP3s:
= intrigue
= far-flung
= sensational
= savor
= dorm
= infamous
= prosthetic
= divulge
= adamantly
= stigmatize
= sanitation
= naughty
= spook
= puzzled
= amputate
= percolate
= stigma

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thailand king 'improving' after gallbladder operation

Originally posted on the BBC on Oct 6, 2014

The Thai king, seen here in a 2012 photo, is greatly revered in his country

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej is improving following an operation at a Bangkok hospital to remove his gallbladder, said palace officials.

The 86-year-old king is revered as a near-deity in Thailand and news of his latest illness has sparked concern across the country.

He is often seen as a unifying force in Thailand which has seen political deadlock in recent years.

A stand-off between the government and royalists ended in May with a coup.

Since then, coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been appointed prime minister, a move which was endorsed by the king.

Mr Prayuth visited the Siriraj Hospital on Monday to sign a book of support for the monarch, said AFP news agency.

'Fever lowered'

A palace statement said surgeons removed the king's gallbladder on Sunday night after it was found to be swollen.

"The operation was satisfactory and His Majesty returned to his room at 20 minutes past midnight. This morning the heartbeat has lowered, blood pressure is normal and His Majesty's fever is lower," the statement said.

Many Thais are praying for the king's health and several showed up at the hospital wearing pink and yellow which are colours associated with the king, reported The Nation.

Many are praying for the king's recovery in Thailand

The king has been admitted to the Siriraj Hospital several times in recent years. He was treated there for stomach inflammation last month.

In 2009 he was admitted for a lung infection, and spent nearly four years living in a special suite in the hospital.



Word-Definition List:
operation: the process of cutting open a part of a person's body in order to remove or repair a damaged part
deity: a god
spark: an action or event that causes something important to develop, especially trouble or violence
unify: to join people, things, parts of a country, etc. together so that they form a single unit
deadlock: a complete failure to reach agreement or settle an argument
stand-off: a situation in which no agreement can be reached
endorse: to say publicly that you support a person, statement or course of action
swollen: larger than normal, especially as a result of a disease or an injury

Word-mp3s:
= operation
= deity
= spark
= unify
= deadlock
= stand-off
= endorse
= swollen

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thai PM bemoans divisive soap operas, offers to write better ones

Originally posted on Reuters.com on Sept 26, 2014

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures as he speaks during an event titled ''The Instruction on the Procedures of Members of the National Reform Council'' at the Army Club in Bangkok September 4, 2014. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

(Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday criticized television soap operas for promoting violence and divisions in society said he wanted scripts to encourage reconciliation, and would write them himself if he had to.

Prayuth, who is also army chief, staged a coup on May 22, overthrowing an elected government after six months of at times violent anti-government protests.

"I have ordered that scripts be written, including plays on reconciliation, on tourism and on Thai culture," Prayuth told reporters.

"They are writing plots at the moment and if they can't finish it I will write it myself," he said of a team of government-appointed writers.

The junta has ruled unchallenged since taking over and has cracked down on pro-democracy dissidents and supporters of the ousted government of Yingluck Shinawatra. It has even warned academics that debate that might "cause misunderstanding" would not be tolerated.

Yingluck, Thailand's first woman prime minister, is the sister of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecoms tycoon who shook up politics by winning over poor voters with populist policies and challenging the royalist establishment.

Prayuth bemoaned hugely popular television soap operas which he said encouraged violence rather than peace. Some television dramas have also been criticized for trivialising rape and domestic violence.

"In our country, television dramas make people fight and they create divisions so we have much improvement to make in this area," he said.

"I have ordered that scripts be written," he said. "One plot will be two foreign families come to visit Thailand, they meet each other and come to love each other."

It is not the first time Prayuth, known for his gruff exchanges with reporters, has shown an interest in the arts.

The straight-talking general also penned lyrics to a patriotic ballad - "Return Happiness to Thailand" - which is played by radio and television stations around the country.


Definition List:
criticize: to say that you disapprove of somebody/something; to say what you do not like or think is wrong about somebody/something
promote: to help something to happen or develop
encourage: to give somebody support, courage or hope
reconciliation: an end to a disagreement and the start of a good relationship again
plot: the series of events that form the story of a novel, play, film/movie, etc
junta: a military government that has taken power by force
crack down: to try harder to prevent an illegal activity and deal more severely with those who are caught doing it
dissident: a person who strongly disagrees with and criticizes their government, especially in a country where this kind of action is dangerous
oust: to force somebody out of a job or position of power, especially in order to take their place
telecoms: {telecommunications} the technology of sending signals, images and messages over long distances by radio, telephone, television, satellite, etc
shake-up: a situation in which a lot of changes are made to a company, an organization, etc. in order to improve the way in which it works
populist: a type of politics that claims to represent the opinions and wishes of ordinary people
bemoan: to complain or say that you are not happy about something
trivialize: to make something seem less important, serious, difficult, etc. than it really is
rape: to force somebody to have sex with you when they do not want to by threatening them or using violence
domestic violence: violence that takes place in the home between family members, especially adults
gruff: (voice) deep and rough, and often sounding unfriendly, (behavior) unfriendly and impatient
ballad: a song or poem that tells a story

MP3 List:
= criticize
= promote
= encourage
= reconciliation
= plot
= junta
= crack down
= dissident
= oust
= telecom
= shake-up
= populist
= bemoan
= trivialize
= rape
= domestic violence
= gruff
= ballad

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lyrics: HAIM - "Falling"


HAIM - "Falling"

I give a little
Into the moment like I'm standing at the edge (I know)
That no one's gonna turn me 'round
Just one more step, I could let go

Oh and in the middle,
I hear the voices and they're calling for me now (I know)
And nothing's gonna wake me now
'Cause I'm a slave to the sound

And they're calling,
Don't stop, no, I'll never give up
And I'll never look back, just hold your head up
And if it gets rough, it's time to get rough
They keep saying
Don't stop, no it's never enough
I'll never look back, never give up
And if it gets rough, it's time to get rough

But now I'm falling, falling, falling
Falling, falling, falling,
Falling, falling, falling, falling, oh

Now we're going down,
And I can feel the eyes are watching us so closely oh
I'm trying not to make a sound
'Cause I'll be found out somehow

So keep calling,
Don't stop, no, I'll never give up
And I'll never look back, just hold your head up
And if it gets rough, it's time to get rough
They keep saying
Don't stop, no it's never enough
I'll never look back, never give up
And if it gets rough, it's time to get rough

But now I'm falling
Into the fire feeling higher than the truth
(I'm falling)
I can feel the heat but I'm not burning
(But now I'm falling)
Feeling desire, feeling tired, hungry too
(I'm falling)
Feels like I'm falling, yeah
I can hear them calling
(I'm falling)

Into the fire feeling higher than the truth
(I'm falling)
I can feel the heat but I'm not burning
(But now I'm falling)
Feeling desire, feeling tired, hungry too
(I'm falling)
Feels like I'm falling, yeah
I can hear them calling
(Now I'm falling)

Falling, falling, falling
Falling, falling, falling,
Falling, Falling, falling, oh
Oh and now I'm falling

Falling, falling, falling
Falling, falling, falling,
Falling, falling, falling, oh

Falling, falling, falling, falling
Fall yeah
And now I'm falling
Falling, falling, falling, falling
Fall yeah
And now I'm falling

Into the fire feeling higher than the truth
(But now I'm falling)
I can feel the heat but I'm not burning
(I'm falling)
Feeling desire, feeling tired, hungry too
(But now I'm falling)
Feels like I'm falling, yeah
I can hear them calling for me
(I'm falling)

Into the fire feeling higher than the truth
(Now I'm falling)
I can feel the heat but I'm not burning
(I'm falling)
Feeling desire, feeling tired, hungry too
(Now I'm falling)
It feels like I'm falling, yeah
I can hear them calling for me

Never look back, never give up
Never look back, never give up
Never look back, never give up
I'll never give up
I'll never give up
[6x]

Saturday, August 9, 2014

LYRICS: This is How We Do - Katy Perry


Katy Perry - This Is How We Do

(This is how we do, This is how we do)
Oh oh
Sipping on Rosé, Silver Lake sun, coming up all lazy
(This is how we do)
Slow cooking pancakes for my boy, still up, still fresh as a Daisy
Playing ping pong all night long, everything's all neon and hazy
(This is how we do)

Chanel this, Chanel that, hell yeah
All my girls vintage Chanel baby

It's no big deal, it's no big deal, it's no big deal
This is no big deal

This is how we do, yeah, chilling, laid back
Straight stuntin' yeah we do it like that
This is how we do, do do do do, this is how we do

This is how we do, yeah, chilling, laid back
Straight stuntin' yeah we do it like that
This is how we do, do do do do, this is how we do

Big hoops, and maroon lips, my clique hoppin' in my Maserati
(This is how we do)
Santa Barbara, chique, at La Super Rica, grabbing tacos, checking out hotties
Now we talking astrology, getting our nails did, all Japanese-y
(This is how we do)
Day drinking at the Wildcats, sucking real bad at Mariah Carey-oke

It's no big deal, it's no big deal, it's no big deal
This is no big deal

This is how we do, yeah, chilling, laid back
Straight stuntin' yeah we do it like that
This is how we do, do do do do, this is how we do

This is how we do, yeah, chilling, laid back
Straight stuntin' yeah we do it like that
This is how we do, do do do do, this is how we do

This one goes out to the ladies at breakfast in last night's dress
(It's how we do, straight stuntin' like that)
Uh-huh, I see you
Yo, this goes out to all you kids that still have their cars at the club valet and it's Tuesday
(This is how we do yeah straight stuntin' like that)
Yo, shout out to all you kids, buying bottle service, with your rent money
Respect

This is how we do, yeah, chilling, laid back
Straight stuntin' yeah we do it like that
This is how we do, do do do do, this is how we do

This is how we do, yeah, chilling, laid back
Straight stuntin' yeah we do it like that
This is how we do, do do do do, this is how we do

This is how we do
This goes out to all you people going to bed with a ten and waking up with a two
This is how we do (straight stuntin like that)
Ha, not me

This is how we do, yeah, chilling, laid back
Straight stuntin' ya we do it like that
This is how we do, do do do do, this is how we do

What? Wait. No, no, no, no.
Bring the beat back.
That's right

(This is how we do), oh oh
(This is how we do), oh oh

Monday, April 14, 2014

POEM: Shrinking Woman

Originally posted on YouTube.com on Apr 18, 2013

Lily Myers, performing for Wesleyan University at the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. This poem was awarded Best Love Poem at the tournament.



SHRINKING WOMAN

Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn't deprive herself,
but I've learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I've realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I'm not there to do so.

Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it's proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she's "crazy about fruit."

It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
making space for the entrance of men into their lives
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
"How can anyone have a relationship to food?" He asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to tell say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out
I have been taught to grow in
you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much
I learned to absorb
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits

that's why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
skin itching,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again,
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many
How much space she deserves to occupy.

Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don't want to do either anymore
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word "sorry".
I don't know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza
a circular obsession I never wanted but

inheritance is accidental
still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.



Definition List:
  • to deprive: to prevent somebody from having or doing something, especially something important
  • nuance: a very slight difference in meaning, sound, colour or somebody's feelings that is not usually very obvious
  • crinkle: to become covered with or to form a lot of thin folds or lines, especially in skin, cloth or paper
  • proportional: of an appropriate size, amount or degree in comparison with something
  • to shrink: to become or to make something smaller in size or amount
  • to wane: to become gradually weaker or less important
  • to wax: to seem to get gradually bigger
  • frail: physically weak and thin
  • rotund: having a fat round body
  • accommodation: change your behaviour so that you can deal with a new situation better
  • carbs: carbohydrates
  • to emit: to send out something such as light, heat, sound, gas, etc
  • to absorb: to take something in
  • to replicate: to copy something exactly
  • to pick up: to learn something
  • to knit: to join together
  • unwittingly: without being aware of what you are doing or the situation that you are involved in
  • crumpled: crushed into folds
  • to creep: to move slowly, quietly and carefully, because you do not want to be seen or heard
  • fugitive: a person who has escaped or is running away from somewhere and is trying to avoid being caught
  • to mimic: to copy the way somebody speaks, moves, behaves, etc, especially in order to make other people laugh
  • obsession: the state in which a person's mind is completely filled with thoughts of one particular thing or person in a way that is not normal
  • inheritance: something from the past or from your family that affects the way you behave, look, etc

Monday, April 7, 2014

Kid President's Pep Talk to Teachers and Students!



It's time to wake up people. this one goes out to teachers. teachers and students.

It's time to get our learn on. And we got a lot to learn too. I don't know it all but I know a few things. Science! You're here. You take up space. You matter. It's just science man! Don't be a bully. Don't even be a bully to the bullies. It just makes more bullies! We can all be awful sometimes. But we can all also be awesome. It's time to be more awesome.

And that's what it's time for. History! We've got to study it so we don't repeat it. But if history does repeat itself then I'm going to name my pet dinosaur Reginald. I just hope he doesn't eat me. [bite] We can't just study history. We gotta make history! And history is made by ordinary people. Ordinary people like you and me and that guy. The world's greatest thinkers Confucius! Albert Einstein! Justin Timberlake! They put their pants on one leg at a time just like me. When I put my pants on one leg at a time I'm dancing. [dancing noises]. You can go by. Yeah. You're gonna be in the video though!

Life is school and you gotta show up. You can't just sleep in! You can't be late! And you can't just hang out in the bathroom that's gross. It's like Walt Whitman said "Yolo!" except he didn't say that but you would know that if you would read a book people! Seriously read a book any book except the vampire ones.

You want to change the world? You gotta know about it. What if Shakespeare didn't go to school? His plays would be even more confusing! To be or not to be... Is that the question? I don't know what a question is, I didn't to school. Anybody? Help me out here? I got a question for you what are you teaching the world? How to be boring? How to make the world sad? [cry noises]

No! No you're not. You're teaching the world what it looks like to be awesome. No matter who you are somebody is learning from you. Everybody's a teacher and everybody's a student. Look for the awesome. Teachers see things they see when you're running down the hall they see when you're passing notes but they also see the person that we can all become someday. A writer or a speaker or Martin Luther King.

Teachers keep teaching! Students keep student-ing. That's not a word. Sorry about that. Here's to teachers that see the awesome. The homework is this. What are you going to teach the world? Do it. Lets make some history. Together. Because it's simple math. Together, we're louder. [screaming noises] Those girls are a little too loud.

Is there a teacher that inspires you? Let them know. This is for teachers everywhere. So share it with them. We gotta make the world awesome! Somebody is learning from you. I'm out! Get your learn on! We're making history. I'm gone! Awesome. [Laughs]

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mongolia's nomads warm to solar power

Originally posted on Aljazeera.com on December 16, 2013
by Philippa H Stewart

Portable solar panels are helping the sunny country's nomads - without disrupting their way of life.
Mongolian gers are normally constructed out of felt and wool
covered by a waterproof canvas.

In Mongolia, often known as the land of the blue skies, the sun shines for 250 days on average each year. It beats down on the sparse plains and on the Gobi desert that spans the country's southern border with China.

It shines, even during the frigid winter days, on the hundreds of thousands of nomads who still roam the steppes, herding animals and living in dome-like tents calling gers.

About 800,000 of Mongolia's 2.8 million inhabitants still live the traditional nomadic lifestyle that has remained largely unchanged for generations. Apart from the addition of motorbikes, the occasional petrol generator, and a passing trade from intrepid tourists wanting to stay in a ger for the night, life is almost the same as that of many nomads' grandparents and great-grandparents.

Almost, but not exactly.

Dotted across the steppes, glints of light can be seen as the sun bounces off the solar panels that have been installed on the sides of gers made of felt and yak's wool. At the start of this millennium, Mongolia's herders and nomads had little or no access to modern electric power and its potential benefits.

But as of 2013, thanks to a concerted push by the Mongolian government, almost 70 percent of nomadic people have access to electricity. Bor, a herder who mainly travels around western Mongolia's Arkhangai province, is one of the people whose family benefits from portable solar home systems (SHS).

"We use it for generating the power for lighting in the ger, charging phones, we can also generate a fridge to keep food longer and we can run a television. That is very useful for us because we can get the most recent weather forecast, which is important for our work and keeping our animals safe. Before we had power it was very difficult. Now it is almost like living in the city."

The ability to charge mobile phones is also important for the herders, who often have children staying at boarding schools. "Most countryside children stay in dorms, because their parents are nomads and it is the only way they can get an education," said Bor. "We can call our children who are in the dorms and speak to them. I also have children working in Ulaanbaatar [Mongolia's capital] and I can speak to them as well. The solar panels are a very useful thing in our lives."

Capturing the sun

Access to electricity also allows families to contact emergency health-care and doctors for advice without having to make the often arduous journey to the nearest village or town.
Herder electrification can help ensure that this important community, which connects the country to its rich history, can maintain their way of life without being left behind. - World Bank report, "Capturing the Sun in the Land of the Blue Sky"
The solar systems were distributed and installed with the help of the World Bank, after the Mongolian government's National 100,000 Solar Ger Electrification Programme ran into difficulties.

A World Bank report, Capturing the Sun in the Land of the Blue Sky, describes the difficulties faced by the Mongolian government on its ambitious project.

By 2005, five years into the plan, 30,000 families had been kitted out with an SHS, but then the programme began to stagnate. "The government of Mongolia recognised that considerably more effort was necessary not only to keep the programme on track, but to scale-up implementation in order to achieve the National 100,000 Solar Ger Electrification Program target," the report said.

In 2006, the World Bank agreed to cover half of the initial outlay costs for each family as well as after-sales maintenance, with 50 centres set up across the country, including at least one in each of its 21 provinces, so that the herders would not have to travel to Ulaanbaatar every time the solar panels needed maintenance.

Migara Jayawardena, a senior energy specialist at the World Bank and lead author of the World Bank report, told Al Jazeera that more than half the nomadic people in rural Mongolia now have access to modern electricity services thanks to the programme - exceeding the original target by 35 percent.

"The overall project structure, including the private dealers and sales and service centres, also remain in operation, and could possibly serve any herders who remain un-electrified, or those who may want to purchase upgraded SHS that can support a larger variety of appliances," he said.

Too expensive?

Despite the financial help, the solar panels can still be prohibitively expensive. The cost depends on where the SHS is produced. The most expensive are from Germany, Japan or China, and can cost from between 150,000-800,000 togrog ($88-467).

Batsaikhan, a nomadic herdsman from Huvsgul province, said cost is a major factor for him. "I would very much like to be able to have the solar panels," he said, "but I cannot because I do not have enough money. It is difficult to save when there are things we need urgently. We see them on sale and one day I want to be able to afford this."

The SHS project also offers environmental benefits to a country where the ratio of carbon dioxide emissions to economic output is ten times higher than the world average, because of the increase in mining over the past decade as the true extent of Mongolia's mineral wealth became apparent.

"SHS is a clean energy source and does not have emissions that would result from using candles, kerosene or diesel," said Jayawardena. "These latter forms of lighting would have local pollution impacts. SHS result in reduced indoor smoke pollution that often leads to respiratory and other illnesses. The utilization of renewable energy from an early stage of modernising do provide a low emission path from the onset, which can have longer-term implications as the country moves forward."

The solar systems are slowly replacing the diesel generators used by some nomads as a means of generating power, although they are still using stoves for heating, burning wood coal and dung throughout the year.

Jayawardena's paper emphasises the importance of minimising disruption to Mongolian nomads' traditional way of life, which could easily have died out with the onset of globalisation.

Accomodating the nomadic life

"The availability of electricity has, of course, improved the quality of life of the herder communities," he told Al Jazeera. Seventy percent of the herders reported "increased productivity" as a result of access to electricity, with 90 percent using mobile phones (compared with a pre-project level of 0 percent). Seventy percent own a colour TV, which have become the most widely used source of information.

"Of course, since they are nomads, traditional electrification of fixed lines are not compatible with their nomadic ways. They would need to change their lifestyles in order to acquire a typical electricity connection," said Jayawardena.

"However, with the availability of portable SHSs that can be easily assembled and disassembled, the technology is adapting to accommodate the herder's nomadic lifestyle rather than the other way around. This enables those who wish to remain herders to continue their nomadic lifestyle while still acquiring access and the benefits of modern electricity - thereby preserving their traditional lifestyle."



Definition List:
  • frigid: very cold
  • to roam: to walk or travel around an area without any definite aim or direction
  • inhabitant: a person that lives in a particular place
  • intrepid: very brave; not afraid of danger or difficulties
  • dorm: [slang] dormitory
  • to stagnate: to stop developing or making progress
  • outlay: the money that you have to spend in order to start a new project
  • extent: how large, important, serious, etc. something is
  • utilization: to use something, especially for a practical purpose
  • dung: solid waste from animals, especially from large ones
  • disruption: to make it difficult for something to continue in the normal way
Pronunciation:
= frigid
= roam
= inhabitant
= intrepid
= dorm
= stagnate
= extent
= utilization
= dung
= disruption

Monday, March 24, 2014

LYRICS: Avicii - Wake Me Up

Avicii - Wake Me Up

Feeling my way trough the darkness
Guided by a beatin heart
I can't tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

They tell me I'm too young to understand
They say I'm caught up in a dream
Life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes
Well that's fine by me

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding my self, and I
didn't know I was lost

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding my self, and I
didn't know I was lost

I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
Hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don't have any plans

Wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life's a game made for everyone
And love is the prize

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding my self, and I
didn't know I was lost

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding my self, and I
didn't know I was lost

I didn't know I was lost
I didn't know I was lost
I didn't know I was lost
I didn't know I was lost

Monday, March 17, 2014

LYRICS: Royals by Lorde



"Royals" by Lorde
Sung by the Florida State University AcaBelles
(acapella - style of music without instruments)

[Verse 1]
I've never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I'm not proud of my address,
In a torn-up town, no postcode envy

But every song's like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody's like Cristal*, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair.

And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood,
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

[Verse 2]
My friends and I—we've cracked the code.
We count our dollars on the train to the party.
And everyone who knows us knows that we're fine with this,
We didn't come for money.

But every song's like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom.
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair

And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

Ooh ooh oh
We're bigger than we ever dreamed,
And I'm in love with being queen.
Ooh ooh oh
Life is great without a care
We aren't caught up in your love affair.

And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

[* Cristal is the brand name of a Champagne produced by Louis Roederer.]

Monday, March 10, 2014

People power: Mongolia’s battle against tuberculosis

Originally posted on "TheConversation.com" on 15 October 2013
by Cameron Wright

Volunteers take anti-TB medications to around 400 patients each month. Image from shutterstock.com

Chinggis Khaan (or as he is known in many countries, Genghis Khan) is Mongolia’s national hero. The famous 12th and 13th century leader used considerable military and political savvy to build one of the largest empires in history. But while he was building an empire, another invader silently spread from person to person.

This invader, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, favours stealth over force. The disease that it causes, tuberculosis (TB), has endured from ancient times into the 21st century.

It is estimated that one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and around 5% to 10% of these will develop active TB in their lifetime.

Even with effective antibiotics, TB is still a major global health problem, though it is rarely seen in developed countries such as Australia. TB disproportionately affects the world’s vulnerable, with over 95% of active cases and deaths caused by TB occurring in developing countries. Mongolia has a high burden of TB relative to its population.


Chinggis Khaan’s status was re-affirmed in July when the capital,
Ulaanbaatar’s main square was renamed Chinggis Square. Image from shutterstock.com

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent Global TB Report estimated that in 2011 there were 8.7 million new TB cases and each day, the disease claims around 4,000 lives. For a disease that is treatable and curable, these statistics are alarming.

This year I’m working with the Mongolian Anti-Tuberculosis Association (MATA). Founded in 1993, MATA is a “home-grown” example of community health workers having a positive impact on TB control. Through a nation-wide network of 300 health volunteers, this organisation coordinates the provision of anti-TB medications, mainly targeting people unable to visit health clinics regularly.

The WHO recommends that anti-TB treatment is given through a scheme known as DOTS (directly observed treatment, short-course), as adherence to medicines over the typical six-month treatment course can be sporadic unless patients are adequately supported. Under DOTS, each dose of anti-TB medication is supervised and signed off by a health worker or volunteer.

MATA volunteers take anti-TB medications to around 400 patients each month through home visits, with volunteers serving patients living in their local city sub-district or town. An additional 280 patients attend contracted cafeterias for a free meal along with their anti-tuberculosis medications.

Volunteers are trained in the basics of TB and can become an important primary source of information, support, early identification of treatment issues and also a vector for encouraging contacts of patients to attend clinics for TB screening.

L-R: S Munkhjargal (MATA volunteer), D Enkhtsetseg (MATA Volunteer Supervisor), T Bayanjargal (TB clinic nurse in Ulaanbaatar) and Y Byambaa (MATA volunteer). These women are part of the team working towards eradicating tuberculosis in Mongolia. Photo Cameron Wright.

For their work, volunteers are provided with a small monthly stipend, the Mongolian equivalent of around 30 Australian dollars. They are supervised by MATA staff and work with tuberculosis clinic doctors and nurses who take responsibility for treatment decisions.

The results of this program so far are impressive. This is best demonstrated by looking at treatment outcomes for a specific group of new patients who have returned positive tests, of which approximately 30% of the national total are involved in MATA’s program.

Of 621 patients from this group enrolled with MATA in 2011, 600 (about 97%) successfully finished treatment and almost all of these were cured of the disease. This is compared to an overall treatment success rate for this group of around 88%, reported by the National TB Program.

I spoke to some volunteers based in Bayanzurkh district, an area of Ulaanbaatar (also known as Ulan Bator) with one of the highest prevalence of TB in Mongolia. I asked one volunteer why she was involved in MATA’s program and she replied, through translation,

There is a great feeling of accomplishment for me and the patient when someone finishes their treatment and is cured. Meeting these volunteers – and witnessing their dedication – makes me think that with time, the TB situation can improve.

Managing a community-based treatment program on a national scale inevitably comes with a set of challenges. The last two decades have seen widespread internal migration, especially during winter, from the countryside into Ulaanbaatar.

Multiple factors have caused this including the transition to a market-based economy following the fall of the Soviet Union, with people increasingly seeking opportunities in the city.

Urban slums are ideal breeding grounds for TB. Image from shutterstock.com

Adding to this, a series of dzuds (particularly harsh winters, commonly associated with a high livestock fatality rate) over recent years has made the continuation of a traditional herder lifestyle untenable for many.

This has led to an expansion of the “ger districts”, urban slums with a multitude of social problems and high rates of TB. The close living quarters during winter, when temperatures can plummet below -40°C, create ideal conditions for TB transmission.

Keeping track of TB patients who have started on treatment is one of the main problems our volunteers face in providing treatment, with many people returning to the countryside during summer. Other issues include reaching patients living in very remote places or those frequently moving around.

Lack of awareness and misconceptions can also be problematic when trying to encourage patients to complete their treatment. A 2012 national survey showed that most people know that TB is curable (84%) and is an air-borne infection (74%).

But many of those surveyed did not know treatment is provided free of charge (49%) or the signs and symptoms of TB (43%) which typically include a chronic cough, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, fever and/or tiredness.

Educating the public about TB can greatly improve case finding and treatment efforts and there is still progress to be made in this area. Providing high-quality training to volunteers is another important aspect of the program and this is complex to manage on a national scale.

Just over half of Mongolians surveyed knew the signs and symptoms of TB. Image from shutterstock.com

Earlier this year I had the chance to participate in the external review of the National Stop TB Strategy 2010-2015, conducted with the support of the WHO. This provided an opportunity for reflection; to praise the many positive achievements of the National TB program and to identify areas where improvements could be made.

My main observation working in the TB area so far is that teamwork is central to reducing the global TB burden. From MATA, to the National TB Program and more broadly the WHO, the Stop TB Partnership and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (among others), there is a huge network of people working towards a common goal.

Through utilising these partnerships, praising the good and improving the not so good, we can work towards making TB join smallpox as a disease of the past, in spite of the huge challenges that lie between this goal and the present situation.



Definition List:
  • savvy: practical knowledge or understanding of something
  • stealth: the fact of doing something in a quiet or secret way
  • to endure: to continue to exist for a long time
  • adherence: the fact of behaving according to a particular rule, etc, or of following a particular set of beliefs, or a fixed way of doing something
  • sporadic: happening only occasionally or at intervals that are not regular
  • vector: something (like an insect) that carries diseases between larger animals and humans
  • to enroll: to arrange for yourself or for somebody else to officially join a course, school, etc
  • prevalence: that exists or is very common at a particular time or in a particular place
  • untenable: that cannot be defended against attack or criticism
  • to utilize: to use something, especially for a practical purpose
Pronunciation MP3:
= savvy
= stealth
= endure
= adherence
= sporadic
= vector
= enroll
= prevalence
= untenable
= utilize