I am at the end of my first week in Mongolia. It’s been extremely busy. At the moment, I am finalising a presentation that I will make to the staff of the National Centre for Health Development (NCHD) comparing health
issues in Ireland and Mongolia. I am going to concentrate on some of the areas in which we have had success in improving public health including road safety, action against smoking and improved environmental protection. I am also going to take the opportunity to tell them a little about Ireland, a country unknown to most people in Asia.
On Friday, I had the opportunity to visit some of the the district medical centres outside of the capital. These are essentially family practices and are staffed by doctors, nurses and traditional medicine practitioners. There are a small number of in-patient beds for expectant mothers and patients admitted for convalescence. They are reasonably well equipped but often there is a problem maintaining a regular water supply.
I am starting to learn at little bit more about how medicine is practiced in Mongolia. Some of the practices are a little strange and very different to home. There is a huge reliance on interventions rather than consultations and investigations. Almost all patients expect to get an injection regardless of their complaint. Treatments include vitaminisation which involves drawing blood, mixing it with vitamins and then injecting it back into the patient.
On the way, I visited a herder camp and had dinner in his Ger, a sort of tent or teepee that most Mongolians live in. A sheep was slaughtered in my honour. The meal consisted of boiled sheep organs; lung, kidney, intestine, stomach etc. The dumplings which followed were much nicer. Everything was washed down with vodka and airag (fermented mare’s milk) in true Mongolian style. I was fascinated to see that many Gers have a small solar panel and battery to provide power and a satelite dish for the TV. The herder and I spoke a lot about horses, a shared passion in both our cultures. He was amused to hear that in Ireland we race dogs as well.
During the week, Mongolia won its first ever gold medal in the Olympic games in the sport of Judo. The city went wild with celebration. Over the weekend we dropped in on the party for the Mongol Rally which ended on Saturday night in front of the State Department Store. The Mongol Rally is done for charity and involves driving a one litre car bought for less than 500 euros from London to Ulaan Baatar. Most cars don’t make it!