ULAN BATOR (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters gathered in Ulan Bator’s central Sukhbatar Square Thursday to demand the resignation of Mongolia’s health minister for failing to curtail the spread of the H1N1 strain of influenza.
The first demonstration in the heart of the capital since post-election riots in July 2008 ended peacefully, but protesters warned of further unrest if the government did not meet their demands by April 19.
Mongolians were shaken by the late but sudden onset of H1N1 in October, before the country had procured supplies of vaccine. About 30 Mongolians have died from the flu strain so far, while the country’s first donated vaccine shipment from the World Health Organization only arrived in January.
Protesters with banners also blamed Health Minister Lamjaviin Gundalai for deaths of five newborns earlier this year from infections due to unsanitary conditions in the city’s central maternity hospital.
The Confederation of Civil Movements also called for an audit of government finances and the reinstitution of an allowance for families with children.
Mongolia has suffered a severe winter this year, while having to trim government spending due to a budget shortfall after the global financial crisis hurt prices for its commodity exports.
Writing by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Alex Richardson