FastFacts

  • 13,Jan2015
    There are 104 million tribal peoples in India from about 705 distinct scheduled tribes, which represent 8.6% of India’s population.
     
    India’s tribal communities continue ...

Nourishing India's Tribal Children

1/13/2015 4:16:22 PM
There are 104 million tribal peoples in India from about 705 distinct scheduled tribes, which represent 8.6% of India’s population.
 
India’s tribal communities continue to remain the most nutritionally deprived social groups in the country. 
 
The majority of them (90%) live in rural areas. While childhood stunting is high in India, it is highest (54%) among tribal children.
 
Little is known about the reasons for stunting among tribal children and the affirmative actions taken for improving their nutrition
 
 
Analysis of India’s National Family and Health Survey-3, 2005-06, from which the sample comprised 7,714 children aged under five years –1,606
were tribal and 6,108 were non-tribal. 
 
The children are from households where poverty is high and open defecation is common. Many of the mothers of the sampled children are under the age of 20 years, anaemic and illiterate.
 
 
Mild and moderate stunting is similar in tribal and non-tribal children. But severe stunting is higher (54% vs. 45%) in tribal compared to non-tribal children. The entire difference in overall stunting is on account of the proportion of severely stunted children (29% vs. 20%)
 
 
One in four tribal children aged 0-5 months is stunted. Stunting and severe stunting double in the 6-11 months period and three out of four children are
already stunted at 18-23 months (see Figure 2). 
 
Stunting among tribal children, 6-8 months old, is higher among children who have not been initiated complementary foods compared to those who have been
initiated (36% vs. 24%). 
 
However, even among the children aged 6-23 months who are fed complementary foods (6%), stunting is quite high (60%), indicating
that much of the damage had already taken place.
 
 
The risk of stunting increases twofold if a mother is stunted or had a pregnancy interval less than two years. Among the tribal children, 68% of the mothers are less than 20 years of age and 48% are undernourished, interpregnancy intervals are narrow and birth orders range from 1-12.
 
The risk of severe stunting is nearly twofold higher for girls aged 6-23 months compared to boys indicating that gender could play a role in caring practices, even among tribal communities. 
 
The odds of being severely stunted is 1.8 times higher in tribal children if their mothers are stunted, and 1.4 times higher if the pregnancy
interval is less than two years or if their mothers are illiterate. 
 
Household poverty is a strong determinant of severe stunting in tribal children.Nearly 90% tribal children in the sample belong to families in the two poorest wealth quintiles, in which risk of severe stunting is three times higher compared to children in the two richest wealth quintiles. 
 
Land alienation, displacement and poor compensation, and inadequate rehabilitation provisions are reportedly core reasons for poverty in tribal communities.