The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and municipal authorities in the Mongolian capital (pop: 1.4m) are tracking all incoming and outgoing vehicles and passengers, in support of the country’s COVID-19 prevention activities as cooperation with member states grows.
The Government of Mongolia has since mid-January stepped up measures to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19. Educational institutions have been closed and all public events were cancelled including the recent celebrations around the Mongolian Lunar New Year.
“IOM is pleased to have signed an Implementation Agreement with the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar and to use its extensive international experience to help with preparedness and response for COVID-19,” said Giuseppe Crocetti, IOM’s Chief of Mission for China and Mongolia.
In line with the COVID-19 Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, and as part of the UN’s response in Mongolia, IOM is providing technical assistance to implement the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) flow monitoring tool to track all the incoming and outgoing vehicles at six major checkpoints in the city. Piloted between 27 February and 3 March, it is now scheduled to last until 24 March.
Over 300 IOM-trained data enumerators are collecting information on the number and type of vehicles, number of people traveling and basic demographic characteristics, origin and destination of travel as well as length of stay.
The DTM has been extensively used globally for other health emergencies, but this is the first instance of the tool being applied specifically for COVID-19 preparedness and response.
Following the Government of Mongolia’s restrictions for both international and internal travel, the country’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was reported on 10 March.
IOM is also providing analytical support compiling daily Situation Reports and sharing them with all key municipal institutions that make up the Capital City Emergency Commission as well as with development partners’ community involved in COVID-19 preparedness and response in the country. The insights and conclusions from the reports assist preparedness efforts by identifying mobility pathways and trends so health officials can better plan their efforts.
Since January, and in line with WHO recommendations, IOM has been working with dozens of governments to help people on the move stay healthy. Earlier this month, a USD 17 million preparedness and response plan was launched.
In Asia, for example, IOM has started distributing hand sanitizer and tissues to US-bound migrants undergoing health checks at IOM centres and in February, critical medical supplies were donated to China to help protect frontline health care workers. The Organization is helping Member States with their cross-border coordination and establishing surveillance efforts at entry points (airports, sea ports and land border crossings), and leveraging its community networks to enhance risk communication activities and help ensure that information on how to remain healthy is communicated to the most vulnerable, including migrants, regardless of their status.
Although it is the first time the DTM has been used at such a scale in a capital city, it has been implemented in over 80 countries since 2004 and over 40 million individuals were tracked globally in 2018 alone. The Mongolia National Emergency Management Agency has used the DTM since 2018 to track the mobility of people in all administrative subdivision outside the capital to improve preparedness for natural disasters, especially dzud, a Mongolian phenomenon when the combination of extremely low temperatures and snow make it difficult for animals to survive.
“The municipality very much appreciates the data that DTM is offering to the City Emergency Commission which is helping us to better outline risk groups, regions with more intensive population movements, improve targeting of prevention activities, and strengthen overall preparedness and response,” said Amarsaikhan Sainbuyan, Mayor of Ulaanbaatar and Governor of the capital.
This DTM operation is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) under the project “Understanding and Managing Internal Migration in Mongolia” (2019-2023).
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