Main Menu
Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                           

State of Mongolia

Economic activity in Mongolia has traditionally been based on herding and agriculture. Mongolia has extensive mineral deposits. Copper, coal, gold, molybdenum, fluorspar, uranium, tin, and tungsten account for a large part of industrial production and foreign direct investment.

Severe winters and summer droughts in 2000-02 resulted in massive livestock die-off and zero or negative GDP growth. This was compounded by falling prices for Mongolia's primary sector exports and widespread opposition to privatization.

Description: Mongolia

Until late 2008 Mongolia experienced a soaring inflation rate, with year-to-year inflation reaching nearly 40% - the highest inflation rate in over a decade.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Mongolia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Street Children Remain Neglected

Damien Dawson, 06 April 2007

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Her name is Narantuya, which roughly translates as bright sunshine. Nara is 10 years old and the sole guardian of her little sister Moogii. These sisters spend their days rummaging through piles of rubbish. They look for enough food to last through the day, wandering from place to place, sometimes walking across the whole city in search of food. They share this daily task with homeless drunks and street dogs, all searching through the same piles of scraps. They make ends meet (barely) by begging, collecting bottles that they sell to recycling plants and anything else that they can scavenge that might have some monetary value.

Mongolians suffer wrath of winter blight

Robert B. Gilbert, Seattlepi, Ulan Bator, March 10, 2007

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Among these migrants are a growing number of runaway and abandoned children, some as young as 5. An estimated 3,000-4,000 children live on the streets of Ulan Bator, the capital.  They are known as "sewer kids". They join gangs of youths that claim underground sewers, drainpipes, stairwells and ditches as their refuge sites.  They shine shoes, steal food, forage through rubbish, fight for territory, suffer servitude by homeless adults, sell their bodies -- or face the danger of being kidnapped by child traffickers.

Homeless Kids Fight For Survival Underground Menaced by Sinister Jobless Adults

Kentaro Kurihara, The Asahi Shimbun, Ulan Bator, March 5, 2005

[accessed 21 June 2011]

[accessed 25 December 2016]

``Not many grown-ups knew of this location,'' says Sukhbold, a 14-year-old who gulps down the soup offered by staff members of the Verbist Care Center, a Catholic child welfare organization. ``But recently, grown-ups have been coming here and beating up the children or demanding cash from them.''  According to local police, unemployed homeless adults are increasingly ordering street children to steal money or bring food. The children are assaulted or thrown out of into the cold if they refuse to obey.


*** ARCHIVES ***

ECPAT Global Monitoring Report on the status of action against commercial exploitation of children - Mongolia [PDF]

ECPAT International, 2006

[accessed 21 June 2011]

[accessed 25 December 2016]

The study Perception, Trends, and Nature of Child Prostitution, conducted in 2001 in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, with a sample group of 1,193 children from grades 7 to 10, indicated that 42 per cent of girls engaged in prostitution are aged between 17 and 18, while 57 per cent are aged between 13 and 16. The majority of these girls (70 per cent) are school dropouts and around 10 per cent are homeless. Most of the girls engaged in prostitution (85 per cent) live underground in the city’s heating ducts or on the streets. Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Mongolia is closely linked with the problem of street children, who are exposed to various forms of violence, sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation, including involvement in the production of pornography. Although there is no reliable data on the numbers of street children in the country, it is estimated to be between one and 4,000 (post 1990, i.e. after the end of the Soviet occupation); 64 per cent are aged between 9 and 14. The majority are found in Ulaanbaatar, but they can also be found to a lesser extent in other large cities such as Dornod and Zamiin Uud.

Factors pushing children into prostitution include sexual abuse, poor living onditions, and being lured, forced or influenced by others. The high rates of divorce and domestic violence (often accentuated by alcohol abuse) also lead many children to run away from abusive home environments to find themselves in highly vulnerable situations. At the end of the Soviet occupation, Mongolia experienced a severe economic collapse, but the various changes in the country’s economic structure were not accompanied by social welfare programmes targeting children and young people. sccp

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 21 February 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - UNICEF estimated that 36.6 percent of children in Mongolia ages 5 to 14 years were working in 2000.  Children herd livestock and work as domestic servants.  Other children sell goods, polish shoes, act as porters, scavenge for saleable materials, beg, and act as gravediggers.  Children also work in informal coal mining, either in the mines or scavenging for coal outside, as well as in informal gold mining.  There are increasing numbers of children living on the streets in Ulaanbaatar who may be at risk of engaging in hazardous work or face sexual exploitation.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2020]

CHILDREN - Although society has a long tradition of raising children in a communal manner, societal and familial changes have orphaned many children. The government was more willing than in the past to admit the extent of the problem, but it lacked the resources to improve the welfare of children who have become victims. NGOs continued to assist orphaned and abandoned children.

The government did not publish statistics on street children; however, the 2002 census identified approximately 1,300 homeless youths between 7 and 18 years of age. Of those, 840 lived in shelters provided by 21 children's centers sponsored by international NGOs. Groups working in the field disagreed on the number of street children, but they estimated that there were as many as three thousand.

Female street children, who accounted for one‑third of all street children, sometimes faced sexual abuse. The government established the National Committee for Children to address this and other child welfare problems. The government supported two government-funded but privately owned and administered shelters, one for children from birth to the age 3 and the other for children from ages 3 to 16. While these facilities received some government funding, it was inadequate, and foreign aid was needed to sustain the orphanages.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 3 June 2005

[accessed 21 February 2011]

[49] The Committee is deeply concerned at the persistent high rate of poverty in the State party. The Committee notes that as a consequence of increasing migration from rural areas poverty is becoming more urbanized and this change has created a range of new social issues, such as children living on the streets. While noting, inter alia, the adoption of, in 2004, "Money for hope" benefit system for children living in families with a minimum income and the State party's efforts to implement poverty reduction plan, programs and projects, the Committee reiterates its concern at the high number of children, who do not enjoy the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing and other basic services, both in urban and rural areas of the country.

[62] The Committee regrets that the State party report did not provide it with adequate information about the situation of street children. While noting with appreciation the establishment of child centers for children living in the street, the Committee is concerned at the increasing number of street children living in very harsh conditions and that the causes leading to this phenomenon are often abusive family situations. According to the Law on Temporary Detention of Children without Supervision adopted in July 1994, a runaway child can be detained up to one week. The Committee is concerned that the State party's domestic legislation does not remain in full conformity with the principles and provision of the Convention in this respect. Furthermore, the Committee notes with concern that the negative public attitudes and prejudices against street children exacerbate their difficult situation.

Fattige barn i Mongolia

Johan Andreas, Angola, 28/10/2008

[accessed 21 June 2011]

HOW DOES THE STREET CHILDREN SURVIVE? - The street children survive by holding together. They help each other and they also support each other. They also help each other get warm. They share all stuff together and help each other collecting bottles and cans for food.

HOW THE OLDER GROUPS TREATS THE YOUNGER GROUPS - It is the older kids that rule the streets of street children. They steal money from what the younger groups have collected. They beat them up and also make many scars on their arms of the younger groups. Sometimes they kill one of the members in the younger groups. All the young groups fear that they will get killed. So the younger groups tries to escape each time the older groups come.

WHAT DO THEY DO IF THEIR HEALTH GETS BAD? - If one of the groups gets sick or ill they try to help him/her. They share the food they get with him and give a bit more food to him/her. They always try to keep him alive so they don’t loose him/her. They collect also money from bottles and cans so that he can go to the doctor to see how sick he is. Few times they try to reunite him/her with his/her parents so they can help him/her survive. If he/she gets really sick they hope that he/she will survive so they don’t loose a member of the group. When he/she gets better again they treat him/her the same way as they treated him/her before he got sick.

City of Lost Children: Driven down

The Daily Pilot, August 01, 2008

[accessed 21 June 2011]

In the words of Treptow, “An enduring legacy of the communist downfall is the phenomenon of Mongolian street children … sent to the city by destitute parents in the countryside. Thousands ended up homeless, abandoned by parents who could no longer care for them or relatives who barely knew them. Alcoholic fathers and abusive families led many children to flee on their own.”

The children live in manholes littered with rat feces and cockroaches. They rummage through trash for scraps of food. Many are malnourished or sick from eating bad meat. Others, as young as 7, drink. The girls live in fear of sexual assaults. Hope is an abstract in this underground society.

But they also sing, laugh, look out for each other and fight with remarkable resilience and resourcefulness to live to see another day.

City of Lost Children: A gripping look at Mongolia's children who are left to survive on their own in a city that turns a blind-eye

Kent Treptow, The Daily Pilot, July 12, 2008

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Aizam’s parents divorced when he was 10. His mother remarried, but her husband threw the boy out on the street because he didn’t want a child who was not his own. Aizam returned to his father’s door, but no one answered.

Eventually he joined a group of children who lived in a manhole between a music kiosk and a movie theater. In the seven years since, he has seen his father several times walking down the street with his new wife. They stroll past and ignore him, as if he is not there.

City of Lost Children: Part 2 - A first-hand look at kids in manholes

Kent Treptow, The Daily Pilot, July 12, 2008

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Davga says the stomach pain is probably food poisoning from bad meat scavenged from trash. She checks her legs and finds an open, circular wound about 2 inches wide. It’s from burning herself on a pipe that runs through the hole she lives in. The injuries are so common that Byamba didn’t bother to mention it. Davga cleans her wound and gives her medicine and fresh food.

Byarlalaa!” the girl shouts thank you! as she skips off and disappears into her hole.

Word spreads that the clinic is here. Children appear in bunches, and soon the truck is elbow-to-elbow with excited kids. It looks like recess at an elementary school, except that some of these kids could pick your pockets in five seconds flat. In 15 minutes the 50 sack lunches the team prepared have been handed out, and the children disperse into the night.

City of Lost Children: Part 3 - 'You are a whore.' Soyolerdene punches him in the face

Kent Treptow, The Daily Pilot, July 12, 2008

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Otgonbayar claims to be 10 but the others say he is 7. He makes considerably more money than the rest because his small, vulnerable appearance elicits more sympathy and therefore more money when he begs. He spends his cash playing Internet games at a nearby computer arcade. “Counter Strike,” a violent military game, is his favorite. If he spends enough, the owner lets him sleep there.

The youngest is Bilguun, a 7-year-old boy who drifts in and out of the hole like a ghost, disappearing for days at a time before turning up with little explanation.

There are girls here as well: Soyolerdene, 17, Solongo, 16, and Ariungerel, 13. When I first meet them, they sit with their backs to me, not out of disdain but out of embarrassment for the way they live. Many days go by before they feel comfortable enough to speak. But when they do, it is clear they endure hardships beyond those of the boys, living in constant fear of being raped or forced into prostitution by roving gangs of adult males whom the children call “gods” because of their size and strength.

City of Lost Children: Part 4 - I feel for Battulga. I can see the end in him

Kent Treptow, The Daily Pilot, July 12, 2008

[accessed 21 June 2011]

A few nights later the hole is packed with bodies. It’s warm enough for the boys nearest the pipes to lounge without shirts. Summer is a couple of months away. Soon they will leave the holes for the roof of a nearby apartment building, where they will sleep beneath passing thunderstorms.

City of Lost Children: Part 5 - 'We drink...,' he says, 'then we cut ourselves'

Kent Treptow, The Daily Pilot, July 12, 2008

[accessed 21 June 2011]

On Saturday night the Tengis kids are making money. The theater is showing the movie “Chinggis Khan,” a Japanese-produced epic about the 13th century founder of the Mongol empire. Liberty Square is overflowing with cars. The children haggle with drivers for money to watch their vehicles. Essentially, they are being paid not to steal. If the owner pays them, the car is left alone. If not, there might not be any side-view mirrors or hubcaps left when he returns.

Nurturing Other Precious Resources

The Australian, April 05, 2007

[accessed 12 October 2012]

Today she is better known as Didi Kalika, an Ananda Marga nun with intense blue eyes, who came to Mongolia 13 years ago to work in a kindergarten and was confronted by street children facing lonely death in midwinter when the temperature sinks to -40ºC. She thought that she might take in up to 10. Today she is caring for 135 children of all ages and running a school, including a class for special needs children.

Traffickers profit from vulnerability of street children in Mongolia

Daryhand Bayar, United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF Mongolia, March 7, 2006

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Mongolia’s peaceful transition to democracy since the mid-1990s after 70 years of communism has brought many positive changes to the country. But it has also resulted in negative impacts such as a dramatic rise in the number of children living and working on the streets and an increased risk that children will be trafficked for sexual and other purposes, including through adoption. Although there is insufficient hard evidence to date, it seems highly likely that many of the children in Mongolia who become victims of traffickers are those who spend much time on the street and are most deprived of protection.

Information about Street Children - Mongolia [DOC]

This report is taken from “A Civil Society Forum for East and South East Asia on Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Street Children”, 12-14 March 2003, Bangkok, Thailand

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 21 June 2011]

There are 22 care centers/shelters for street children in Ulan Bator, accommodating 800 children as of 2002, but there are still a number of children on the streets, at least 300-400 in Ulan Bator and to lesser extent in some other areas like Dornod, Zamiin Uud, etc. Approximately 70% of them are boys, and the majority are 9 to 14 years old.

Street Children in Mongolia: Abandoned by the State

Asia Child Rights ACR Weekly Newsletter Vol.01 No.04, 04 DEC 2002

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Mongolia’s streets are home to 4000 children who live their lives doing anything from begging, stealing, sex work to a host of other menial tasks to stay alive.

Supporting Street Children In Mongolia

Save the Children UK, 30/04/2001

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Poor health is common among both street children and children who work. They often risk injury from dangerous work, poor living conditions and gang violence. Children are also exposed to sexually transmitted diseases - especially girls working in the sex industry. But many children are unaware of the risks, and often don't even realize they are ill. Even if they recognize symptoms, it's often impossible to get professional help. Many of them are not officially registered, or have lost proof of identity. Without it, they can't get free health cover, and hospitals are reluctant to treat them because they won't get paid.

Out in the Cold: The Street Children of Mongolia

Kristine Weber, People's News Agency PNA Dispatch, 1997

[accessed 21 June 2011]

To a few shrewder Mongolian businesspeople, the explosion of capitalism has brought prosperity. But the boom has also left fallout - the country's youth.  Along with the decline of the communist economic structure went most of the country's social welfare money and programs for young people.

Mongolia: Street Children Amid Newfound Wealth

Tom Boland, 8 Nov 1998

[accessed 21 June 2011]

This has resulted in the phenomenon of Ulan Bator's street kids, who have been growing in number for six years.  Today, according to the police, there are 382 children living permanently on the streets, many refugees from abusive alcoholic parents.  The number rises occasionally to between 500 and 1,000.  They beg, steal, pick-pocket, polish shoes, carry rubbish or do other menial tasks just to stay alive.

Circus Training As An Alternative Educational System

Lutaa Badamkhand, The Independent, 26 December 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 21 June 2011]

To children attending Boxing Day circuses across the world, juggling balls or balancing a spinning plate may not seem essential for success.

But 40 children in Outer Mongolia know differently. Previously they lived in the sewers and heating pipes systems beneath the streets of Ulan Bator where temperatures are routinely minus 25C. Today they know that the circus offers life-saving skills. An aid project teaching circus skills to orphans may sound odd, but the children know that the alternative faced by Mongolia's 3,000 street children is a life of begging and pick-pocketing.

Street-Children Pay The Price For Parliament's Neglect

Michael Salguero, 2002

[accessed 21 June 2011]

According to the Sinkhat family, their situation was hopeless. None of the children were in school and the mother did little to help out the situation.  She had moved from her community to Ulan Bator in 1990, when Socialism collapsed in Mongolia and the democratic government promised new economic changes.  What she found was a 35% unemployment rate, newly privatized and expensive housing, and a growing population of street children. Her family too would begin to sleep on the streets.

Numbers of Street Children in Mongolia on the Increase

Phoebe Lai, Senior Communications Officer, World Vision China Office, March 31, 1998

[accessed 21 June 2011]

In 1991, there were no street children in Mongolia. Now, within a span of just five to six years, the number has surged to 6,000. Many of these children left their poor rural homes because of family violence and abuse. Now living on the streets in below freezing temperatures, these children often find their homes in stairwells, building entryways, or underground. They survive on pick-pocketing, stealing, robbing and begging.

Inside the Children's Prison in Ulan Bator, March 15, 2002

[accessed 21 June 2011]

In the capital, Ulan Bator, juveniles between the ages of 14 and 18 who are accused of crimes are kept in a separate detention center, which is also designated a training center. Here, inmates are kept apart from the adult population, schooled and hopefully rehabilitated.

Why Street Children?

World Vision New Zealand

[accessed 21 June 2011]

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.

Dark Side Of Mongolia

Conor O'Clery, The Irish Times

[accessed 21 June 2011]

The street children sleep in the open when the weather is warm and during the freezing winter nights they take refuge in communal flats or in the city sewers. Below ground they huddle in gangs of about 25 for safety and sleep close to the insulated pipes carrying hot water to apartment blocks.

Verbist Care Center in Mongolia Helps Street Children in Ulan Bator

William M. Balsamo

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 21 June 2011]

Although the children have all been taken from the sewers of Ulan Bator, not all of them are orphans. Most of them do have parents who can no longer take care of them. Such parents have given the Center permission to care for them, and regularly visit their children at the home. Most of the children at the Center are the products of poverty rather than abandonment.

Catholic priest climbs into manholes to minister to Mongolian poor

Dianne Hardisty , The Bakersfield Californian, 2001

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 21 June 2011]

The manholes provide shelter to the thousands of homeless men, women and children seeking refuge from winter temperatures that sometimes dip to minus 50 degrees.  The priests began collecting the children from the streets -- at first 15 and then 40. They built a four-story center that now houses 120 children and also feeds and cares for homeless adults.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Street Children - Mongolia",, [accessed <date>]