Good oral health is vitally important for Mongolians; said Japanese health volunteers came in Baganuur mining town, most remote satellite district town located 140km east from Ulaanbaatar’s city center.
Oono Aya, 35, originally from Yokohama city, and Ueoka Uchiko came in Baganuur through Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and found oral health is no good especially among children of kindergarten and school ages. At the Bagannuur District Hospital, where they have been working since 2009, Aya and Uchiko are providing health care to some 26,000 population of the mining town and nursing trainings to local doctors. They provide oral health care and healthy eating advises to local people as well as intensive trainings to local nurses on cardiorespiratory rehabilitation, physical therapy for elderly, cathing, and infusion set.
“Mongolians eat a lot of meat, I keep telling pregnant mothers to eat more vegetable,” told Uchiko to an expecting mother pictured right. At the maternity delivery department of the Baganuur District Hospital, around 700 babies are born every year, but the number is likely to increase in the near future.
Most worrying health issue is more and more physically disabled babies are born these days, volunteers said. The town built in 1980 along with the largest open pit coal mine in Mongolia. Although the town had no such serious suffer from gold mining related heavy chemical contamination, mining accidents is also a big concern. But in 2007, Baganuur became the center of a massive methanol poisoning case that stemmed from substandard production methods of a local vodka manufacturer. The case highlighted one of Mongolia’s food safety problems. And, the poison killed 14 people and hospitalized dozens of others.
The district’s main hospital, that has 135 beds, also provides health care services to neighboring villages of Tov and Khentii provinces, most isolated ones are located in 180km distance, hardly accessible by road especially in winter of heavy snowfall.
From rural to urban area migration on the rise, Baganuur population had also seen mechanical growth of population over the course of past decades. Migrants from rural areas have ever expanded the town’s ger districts, where traditionally coal-fired household stoves are used to survive long cold winter. Air pollution has notably risen.
“I came here in January, it was very cold. Maybe coldest winter. Now it is very hot,” said Uchiko in Mongolian language fluently, who starts her day at work by introducing her name in Mongolian language to the visitors.
The health volunteers have raised more than JPY100,000 (around US$1,200) in Tokyo’s spring fair festival held last May. More than 300 people have visited a special pavilion designated for the Baganuur District Hospital in two days to donate funds that will help purchase of medical supplies in shortage.