Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Malnutrition and high childhood mortality among the Onge tribe of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

VG Raoa1 c1 p1, AP Sugunana1, MV Murhekara1 and SC Sehgala1

a1 Regional Medical Research Centre (Indian Council of Medical Research), Post Bag No. 13, Port Blair 744 101, Andaman and Nicobar Islands


Objectives A study was conducted among the Onge tribe of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with the objectives of identifying demographic factors responsible for the decline in their population and assessing their nutritional status, which is an important determinant of child survival.

Study design and subjects The study included estimation of indices of fertility and child mortality, and assessment of nutritional status. All individuals of the Onge community settled on Little Andaman Island were included.

Results The mean total marital fertility rate was estimated to be 5.15 live births per woman and the general fertility rate was 200 live births per 1000 married-woman-years. Although the gross reproduction rate was estimated to be 2.2 female children per married woman, the net reproduction rate was only 0.9 surviving female child per married woman. The mean infant mortality rate during the past 30 years was 192.7 per 1000 live births, and the child survival rate was found to be only 53.2%. A mild to moderate degree of malnutrition was found in 85% of children of pre-school age and severe malnutrition in 10%. The Onges had low intakes of iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. All the screened Onges were found to be infested with one or more intestinal parasites.

Conclusions High childhood mortality appears to be the predominant demographic factor responsible for the decline in the Onge population. The high prevalence of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiency disorders could be important factors contributing to the high childhood mortality.

(Received September 08 2004)

(Accepted May 12 2005)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email

p1 Regional Medical Research Council for Tribals, Nagpur Road, PO Garha, Jabalpur 482 003, Madhya Pradesh, India.