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There are no jobs, there is no money!

I have friends looking for jobs in London, the US, and India. “There are no jobs, there is no money!” I hear them say. The market is down. They meet up over a coffee or a lunch somewhere to discuss it. Or take a break to travel the world. Their savings will last them through the downturn. But, there are thousands of children living on the very edge of survival in Mongolia and in other poor countries of the world, who don’t.

Purevsuren, a mother of five, said to me, “Although we are not homeless right now, we could become homeless very easily. My job may or may not last. Everything is so expensive these days.” She has no money for contingencies. Families like hers have to cut back on basic things – like education, warm clothes and heating, and food.

I went into a tiny, wooden dwelling earlier this week. There was very little space, and it was so dark inside, that you couldn’t tell it was morning outside. Or even that it was freezing. There was smoke everywhere. The indoor stove was both the cooker and the heater. Anudari, two, was listless. Her eyes stared blankly at me. I could see how confined her life was, how little nourishment and stimulation she had. Her parents were unemployed. Her father listed off the money he could get from the government for looking after his children. Her mother was expecting another baby.

Anudari’s sister Budgerel was living in a state-run institution. Only six, she has to cross a yard, in well-below freezing temperatures, to get to the toilet. But she was bathed, and fed and was learning something every day. It’s easy to think of an institution as the “answer” for kids like Budgerel and Anudari. But, tackling the problem at its roots means fixing their parents’ lives, giving them an opportunity to earn a living, improve their living conditions and become more capable of looking after their own children.

I am headed home from Mongolia, now. I’ll tell my family stories about the cold. How my fingers nearly fell off trying to work a camera at minus twenty or something. I’m going to have to find a way to tell them, without scaring them, just how desperate things are. That I am afraid for Anudari and Budgerel and for other children like them. Will they become casualties of the global economic downturn? Will their lives amount to just another statistic?

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