`Tribals are more malnourished'
Tribal people must have control over forest resources of which I was a part, published in The Lancet this June says that 51.1 per cent of tribal children under five are stunted. The figure for the non-tribal population of the country is 43.1 per cent. There is no doubt that the tribal population is more malnourished.
Child malnutrition depends on social-economic condition, education, health of mothers and availability of healthcare facility. The scientific advancements made in the past century have not benefitted tribal people. Even the government schemes launched to fight malnutrition are in bad shape. Almost `30,000 crore have been spent on the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), but with no evident benefits. Children are most susceptible to malnutrition in the first two years after birth, but by the time ICDS comes into play, the child is already malnourished. Food provides minerals, vitamins and protein necessary for a healthy life. For the tribal population, these come from forests. But they are increasingly being denied entry to forests. It is difficult to say if forests can ensure food security round the year, but denying their access to forests certainly does not help. What the government needs to do is take steps to improve literacy and economic condition of tribal people. Women's health needs special focus because it will benefit children too. Healthcare facilities in these areas need a huge boost. Tribes must also be allowed control over forest resources.
Bang is the director of Gadchirolibased non-profit SEARCH, and heads a committee formed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the health of tribal people