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Nourishing India’s Tribal Children - Synthesis of deliberations and recommendations

Stunting in children is a measure of chronic undernutrition, with irreversible, profound and lifelong consequences. A stunted child is significantly less tall than would
be expected for his or her age. Stunting contributes to one third of under-five deaths globally, and adversely affects a child’s health, cognitive capacity, school
performance and productivity in adulthood. 
 
According to the National Family Healthy Survey (NFHS) 2005-2006, 48 per cent of Indian children under five are stunted. The prevalence of stunting is highest (54
per cent) among children of India’s tribal peoples. In terms of numbers, 6.2 millionout of 11.5 million tribal children aged under five in India are stunted. Nine tribal
dominated states of central India collectively house 4.7 million of these stunted children: Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telengana
 
According to the National Family Healthy Survey (NFHS) 2005-2006, 48 per centof Indian children under five are stunted. The prevalence of stunting is highest (54
per cent) among children of India’s tribal peoples. In terms of numbers, 6.2 million  out of 11.5 million tribal children aged under five in India are stunted. Nine tribal 
dominated states of central India collectively house 4.7 million of these stunted children: Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat,
Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telengana.

Stunting in tribal children is severe andinfluenced by multiple interrelated factors. These include household poverty and food insecurity, maternal nutrition before and during pregnancy, poor complementary feeding ractices in the first two years of life, and poor  access to water, health and sanitation services. At least six ministries have a role to play to ensure tribal children are wellnourished.

These include (i) Ministry of  Rural Development; (ii) Ministry of PublicDistribution and Civil Supplies; (iii) Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW); (iv) Ministry of Women and Child Development(MWCD); (v) Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation; and (vi) Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, being the nodal ministry for welfare, development and protection of tribal children, has the mandate to convene, coordinate and synergize efforts of line ministries to reduce undernutrition in tribal children. However,its role for ‘nutrition’ remains untapped.

In order to accelerate synergistic multisec or actions to reduce stunting in tribal children of central India, a two-day nationalconclave to draw attention to stunting among tribal children across the nine states of central India was held on 15-16 January, 2015, in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.The conclave was jointly organized by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and UNICEF,  in collaboration with the Ministries of Women and Child Development, and Health and Family Welfare. It was hosted by Odisha’s Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes Development  Department, Research Training Institute and UNICEF Odisha.