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According to government statistics, there were no street children in Mongolia in 1990. Under communism, everyone had a job and enough income to keep their family. If families weren't able to look after their own children, or if children were orphaned, the government cared for them in special children's homes.

In 1990, Mongolia changed to a free-market economy. Russian subsidies stopped, and Russian managers and technicians went home. Many Mongolian businesses collapsed, leaving thousands out of work. With no hope of improving their lives, many people turned to vodka for solace.

Some country families moved to the city to try to find work, but there were few jobs, and costs in the city were high. Families were sometimes forced to live on the street, or send their children out to beg or sell trinkets to help boost the family income.

Unemployment, poverty and alcoholism put terrible stresses on families. Child abuse and abandonment grew. Meanwhile, the government had no money for social welfare. Children's homes became run down, or closed altogether. Children who could not or would not live with their families had nowhere to go.

One effect of all these changes has been the appearance of street children. There are now about 4,000 children in Mongolia, mostly in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, who live and/or work on the streets. Some of these children live with their families, or at least go home regularly, and others only stay on the streets in the summer, but about 400 live on the streets full-time.



Why Street Children | Why do they come to the Streets
Where do they Sleep | How do they Live