There is a strong need to shift focus on stunted growth among Indian children, especially tribal children.
The view emerged during the two-day national conclave on ‘Nourishing India’s tribal children’ held at Bhubaneshwar during the weekend.
The conclave was jointly organised by the ministry of tribal affairs, UNICEF India and government of Odisha.
Stuting is globally considered as powerful indicator of chronic and inter-generational malnutrition.
Currently, the nutritional focus in the country including Madhya Pradesh is on underweight children with all policies and programmes considering the underweight data as indicator of malnutrition.
However, a UNICEF study of 2014, the details of which were shared during the conclave, shows that especially in case of tribal children, stunting was a major issue. HT was among select national media representatives to attend the conclave.
The study shows that more than half of tribal kids under the age of five years (54%) in country showed stunting and bulk of these children (29%) were found to be severely stunted. This is in comparison to non-tribal children who show 45% stunting and 20% severe stunting.
The issue becomes more critical in context of MP as it reported highest percentage of stunted tribal children (64-65%) with Odisha and highest percentage of severely stunted tribal children (35%) among the nine tribal states, according to a survey report of the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) — a constituent of National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad — released in 2009. This is the latest among the few nutritional surveys on tribal population available in country. Even the above mentioned UNICEF study had to use the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) data of 2005-06 to come out with the study. Though Madhya Pradesh got a state specific nutritional survey conducted by the NIN in 2011, it does not have separate data for tribal population.
Consequently, the need to have disaggregated nutrition status data for tribal populace also emerged as one of the major recommendations of the conclave. “Stunting is a powerful indicator of nutritional status and the fact that in some districts of country it is higher than 50% is disheartening,” Louis-George Arsenault, Country representative of UNICEF told HT on the sidelines of the conclave.
Principal secretary, women and child development, JN Kansotiya, MP, said that his department would now have a targeted focus on tribal children and one of important steps would be to have the tribal nutrition component incorporated in the second nutrition survey to be undertaken in the state shortly by NIN.