Wednesday, August 13, 2008


We make news in The Mongol Messenger

My day started with a three hour session with the Head of Finance and Chief Economist in the Chingeltei District Health Unit (CHDU). They spent the morning explaining the way in which money comes into the health budget. The health system is funded from a range of sources: central taxation, contributions from health insurance, ancilliary income (for example from renting out space to private pharmacies operating on the public hospitals grounds) and income from sources such as tourists requiring treatment.

It was a fairly intense meeting. Because of the need to translate I had to go back and forth with my questioning a few times just to make sure that I understood what I was being told (for instance, "Fixed Assets" was translated as "Non Moving Assets").We agreed at the end that I would go back to them to clarify any issues that I didn't fully understand.

At lunch we met with Mr Peter O'Brien, the Deputy Head of the UK Mission in Mongolia and the person who deals with any issues that arise in relation to Irish citizens here. Peter told us that there are only about 10 Irish people living in Mongolia on a full-time basis. That struck me as low, since I've already seen the outside of FOUR Irish pubs here, and I've only been here 4 four days. I stuck my head into one, there was little that was particularly Irish about it - they weren't even playing U2 - so I went to a Korean place instead. Peter asked us along for a visit to the Embassy on Friday evening, which with luck we may be able to accept.

Lunch was served very slowly and we ended up being ten minutes late for our meeting with the Minister of Health, Prof Byambaa Batsereedene. She was extremely welcoming and expressed the hope that our visit would lead to additional ties between our two countries.

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With the Minister of Health, Prof Byambaa Batsereedene and VSO Country Chief Alison Rusinow

We also visited the United Nations Population Fund Country Representative Ms Delia Barcelona where we had a chat about the country's demographics. One area of concern is the low level of educational attainment for boys. Many leave school early to work with their livestock, as a result there is a huge disparity between the educational achievements of girls and boys. This means that in middle-management and office jobs the majority of appointments are women. At the same time there does appear to be a glass ceiling in place, in that all the top jobs still go to men. Certainly some changes are needed to address both of these issues.

At a brief meeting with the World Health Organisation Country Chief he informed us that our visit had attracted the attention of the local English Language newspaper. Here's the article.

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Reports of our placement in "The Mongol Messenger"

The other volunteers have made sure that we are welcome and part of the group. My flatmate Gemmamarie cooked us up a traditional Phillipino disk called Adobo chicken last night, which we washed down with some Mead, brought from Ireland by Leo.

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Dinner with other VSO volunteers at Daniel's house

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