In a city known as the coldest capital in the world, bug-infested homeless children shiver together in railroad cars and around heating vents much of the year, struggling to stay alive.
Hillary Rodham Clinton met with some of them Friday and lamented that the problem of homeless people afflicts not only poor nations like Mongolia but also rich ones like the United States.
At the Center for Street Children, a group of cheery-faced youngsters provided poignant entertainment for the first lady. “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” they sang with gusto in their native Mongol tongue, stomping their feet, clapping their hands and slapping their knees.
“I remember singing that,” the first lady said, “but never as well as you just did.”
Mongolia has been wrenched by economic problems that have frayed the welfare system. The result has been an increase in alcoholism, family breakups and child abuse.
The first lady visited the center as she concluded a six-day trip that took her to an international women’s conference in Beijing and then to this sparsely populated nation locked between China and Russia.