A Bright Future Ahead: UN Secretary-General Meets Mongolian FamilyPublished: Aug 29, 2022 Reading time: 6 minutes
The UN Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres, paid an official visit to Mongolia in August at the invitation of the President of Mongolia, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa. During his visit, Mr Guterres met with the community members that participated in projects implemented by the UN agencies in Mongolia. Munkhjargal Bataa, Bolor Amarjargal and their youngest 1-year-old daughter Nandia, were invited to meet the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the " Cooking, Heating, and Insulation Product (CHIP)" Demonstration Ger.
“It was an honour to share our family’s experience as recipients of the CHIP package and meet such an important guest of the Mongolian state. I even tried to speak with him in English, and I said, “Hello. My name is Munkhjargal, and this is my family. How are you? And we were able to have a short chat, and I think he (the Secretary-General) was pleasantly surprised that a visually impaired person can handle the heating package without help,” said Munkhjargal excitedly.
The CHIP project is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UNICEF and the Government of Mongolia. The project is implemented by People In Need Mongolia, the Mongolian Sustainable Finance Association, and the Mongolian University of Sciences and Technology; the CHIP package was designed to be an affordable yet effective solution to both indoor and outdoor air pollution and to eliminate the use of coal-fired stoves inside people’s homes. More than 1,000 families, just like Munkhjargal’s, have installed CHIPs in their ger.
A ger is a round felt tent generally made of wooden columns covered in durable, waterproof, white canvas. Munkhjargal’s family lives in a five khana ger with an average of 24-29 square meters floor area.
The Secretary-General shared how impressed he was with the CHIP ger and its positive impact on Munkhjargal and his family. He also noted that Mongolia has the potential to be a global leader in the renewable energy sector–whilst delivering economic opportunities and energy independence.
“I see a bright future for my daughter Nandia who had the unique opportunity to meet the UN Secretary-General and for my children,” said Munkhjargal.
Munkhjargal’s journey to CHIP
Munkhjargal is a resident of one of the world's most polluted and coldest capitals, Ulaanbaatar. Munkhjargal lives with his spouse and five children in a ger, just like half of the population of Mongolia. Until recently, the family burned coal for heating in winter, which is one of the most significant contributors to the pollution in winter.
But having a coal-fire stove in a ger can be challenging for the visually impaired Munkhjargal and also hazardous for children under five years old. A tragic incident led Munkhjargal and his wife to look for alternative ways of heating their ger. In 2019, his second son jumped on the hot (burning) stove while playing and burned himself. The child was rushed in an ambulance with second-degree burns to the trauma hospital, followed by a long, expensive and painful recovery.
“It was the most terrifying day of my life. I could hear my wife and child screaming but being visually impaired; I could not understand what was going on at the moment. My wife said that she could see our son’s skin on the stove after she pulled him off. It’s our duty as parents to ensure the safety of our children,” said Munkhjargal.
Thousands of children across Mongolia experience severe burns every year. Protecting children from the hot, coal-fire stoves in the middle of their homes is a serious concern for ger-dwelling families across the country.
A year ago, Munkhjargal’s wife, Bolor, found the information on the CHIP project while she was navigating through social media. She knew the CHIP package was exactly the solution they needed to relieve them of the stresses and burdens of the coal-fire stove. They immediately contacted the CHIP project but did not initially qualify as they did not have a formal registration within the Bayanzurkh district.
The CHIP project staff suggested meeting with the district social worker, which they did, and they were approved for the project. Later, they participated in one of their district's briefing meetings, receiving concise information on the CHIP package.
CHIP package finally installed and the ger insulated
“Having worked as an electrician before losing my eyesight six years ago, I wanted to understand how the whole package worked, and at the meeting at the Bayanzurkh District office, I had the chance to talk to the project team and lecturer B. Munkhbayar from Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST) about the package. They explained the whole package in detail, how the heaters work, and their safety. I was totally convinced that it would work for my family,” Munkhjargal said.
Since the CHIP installation, it hasn’t just been Munkhjargal who noticed a difference, but his wife, Bolor. On average, women in households with CHIP report saving 41 minutes daily thanks to removing the coal-fire stove.
“I worked as an on-call cleaner for a small company before becoming pregnant. I would clean offices, apartments and other facilities whenever we received an order. Since the calls would come any time of the day, I had to prepare the coal, the stove and other utensils for my husband to heat the stove if it gets cold during my absence,” said Bolor.
“But having five children in the ger is not easy; they would play with the coal, put it in their mouth, and my husband often could not find the tools and coal in its place. Now that we have the heaters, I don’t have to prepare the coal, stove, and tools. My husband will just have to turn on the heater switch and that’s it,”
As for many other parents in Mongolia, the toxic impacts pollution has on their children’s health is a concern for Munkjargal and Bolor. But having alternative solutions for heating their ger and eliminating the use of coal is their contribution to reducing air pollution in Mongolia.
About the CHIP packageCHIP is a package that replaces the coal-fire stoves within the traditional Mongolian ger by introducing alternative means for safe cooking, heating, and insulation and improved air circulation with energy-saving and clean technology.
UNICEF, in partnership with the People In Need, School of Civil Engineering and Architecture of Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST-SCEA), BEEC and the Mongolian Sustainable Finance Association ТоС Холбоо / MSFA introduced the CHIP package in Bayankhongor, Gobi-Altai, Umnugobi provinces, and Bayanzurkh and Songinokhairkhan districts of Ulaanbaatar city supporting the target households in overcoming the winter in warm, safe and smokeless environment.