Quest for Voice for all in Mongolia and Saving those with hearing impairment From a Silent World
Esukhei is a 2 year old chubby little boy. He was diagnosed with congenital deafness when he was 7 month old and fortunately he had surgery in Korea after 8 months. If he waited for 5 more months, he could end up never being able to speak and hear again. Now he is wearing a special hearing aid and taking special speaking lessons. His mom Oyungerel told us the whole story with tear in her eyes.
Nobody knows how many kids like Esukhei are in Mongolia but we do know that very few of them will be lucky enough to get diagnosed early and have adequate and timely treatment. There are only 2 hearing test equipments for the 3 million people of Mongolia. They were donated by an international clinic from Korea in December of 2012. Since then over 2000 babies were screened. Then one of them was broken down but the hospital cannot afford to send it off to Germany for repair.
The remaining equipment now serves as the sole equipment for a country where approximately 74 000 babies are born each year. ‘For every 2015 babies screened, 3 were diagnosed with deafness and 215 would have to be referred back for further check’ says Saruul, a doctor of the National Centre of Maternal and Child Health, who uses the remaining hearing screening equipment for babies born in the centre. She adds that based on the statistics, every year approximately over 100 deaf babies are born in Mongolia. Without the essential hearing test, hundreds of parents would have to raise their kids without ever hearing a single word from them.
Worldwide, more and more countries have made conducting hearing screening mandatory. According to WHO, this approach is more effective in terms of avoiding further damage to patient’s quality of life and preventing economic damage to a country. The real burden and associated costs of undetected hearing impairment during infancy and childhood are becoming clearer. The current level of burden is already known to be high in some developed countries and is likely to be high everywhere else. In the United States, for example, “diseases of communication” are estimated to cost the economy US$ 154–186 billion per year /WHO 2009/.
‘We are actually planning to provide hearing screening equipments to maternity hospitals. Unfortunately, we don’t have the capacity and resources to buy them. Government is cutting back our budget since deaf is not a popular disability for politicians.’ says Ganchimeg, head of ‘Anti-deaf national program’ and head of Otolaryngology department in the National Centre of Maternal and Child Health.
When the officials in the Ministry of Health first heard of this equipment, they asked me how it works. Of course I could not explain it very well, but I could explain to them that the solution for the problem exists and we are willing to offer our help. ‘The Ministry doesn’t normally cooperate with any NGO that approaches them. But I know Rotary and I’m a friend of Bayarsaikhan doctor. I will tell you whom to approach and what procedures you should take before approaching the Ministry’ whispered Mrs Buyanjargal, head of the Policy Implementation and Coordination department.
I can see doubt in the eyes of people I met and talked about our project. Is it really a worthwhile cause? Can you afford to buy the equipment? Can you convince the Minister? Will RI support you? Why don’t you just give toys to orphans and leave deafness for better time? These are questions I faced in my quest for the right answer.
However, I and members of Ulaanbaatar Peace Avenue Rotary club think that this is the one challenge that Rotarians are capable of overcoming and we should change the life of kids like Esukheis for the better. Therefore, we have started the ‘Save Them From a Silent World’ project by equipping all maternity hospitals with hearing screening equipment and building up the capacity in order to make mandatory hearing screening nationwide possible.
If you want to help those like Esukhei and improve the lives of hundreds of children, please join our project. Together we can give voice to those with hearing impairment and save them from a silent world.
P.S Little Esukhei’s three month’s speaking lesson fee was donated by club member Chinzorig Altangerel and club member doctor Misheelt Batjargal conducts Esukhei’s monthly check-up.
Chair of Service Project committee
Ulaanbaatar Peace Avenue club