Global Hunger Index 2019: India ranks 102 among 117 countries

Understanding hunger in India


October 25, 2019

/ By / Kolkata

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India has a hunger problem as according to the Global Hunger Index, India ranks 102 among 117 countries

India has ranked 102nd among 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI), an annual report jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, and is among the 45 countries that have serious levels of hunger.

Recently in a few separate cases reported from around the Indian states, students were seen allegedly being served rice or roti (Indian bread) with salt or turmeric-rice as midday meal, a government scheme for providing better nutrition to children in government schools across the country. While the authorities have claimed that these are all false news to malign the system, in some cases it is true negligence on part of supervisor. However, it is true that India has a hunger problem as according to the Global Hunger Index, India ranks 102 among 117 countries. The annual index is a tool designed to measure and track hunger at the global, national and regional levels and to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger.

The rank 102 means that malnutrition is a grave problem in India as the list was prepared by each country being evaluated on four indicators- undernourishment, child wasting (low weight for height), child stunting (low height for age) and child mortality. Also according to a data from Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), nearly 190 million Indians currently suffer from malnutrition and hunger in the country.

The report also stated that due to large population, India’s GHI indicator value has a greater impact. India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 pc, which is the highest for any country in the report. “In India, just 9.6 pc of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet. As of 2015-16, 90 pc of Indian households had no sanitation facilities,” stated the report. It also said that though the “Clean India” campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was instituted to end open defecation and ensure that all households had proper sanitation, even with the success of the scheme, open defecation is still prevalent and this situation jeopardises the population’s health and consequently children’s growth and development as their ability to absorb nutrients is compromised.

Though India has recorded a reduction of 55 pc in the mortality rate in the last 20 years according to the Global Childhood Report 2019 published in the month of May, the acute under-nutrition amongst children below the age of five has gone up. Even with the several government programmes for addressing the issue, it remains inadequate due to the prevalent social customs and beliefs in the society as says Dr Ashok Kumar Mallick, director-professor and head of the department, department of maternity & child health, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health. “Along with socioeconomic conditions and education, being influenced by social beliefs and customs and not being able to accept the scientific reasoning and processes wholeheartedly, are the factors affecting common people. Even though science and technology have brought a lot of development in the field and awareness is being spread amongst the people, it will not be of use until the knowledge is implemented and reflected in practice,” said Dr Mallick while speaking to Media India Group on the issue of malnutrition.

He also iterated the point that an important factor in a child’s development is the mother’s health which needs attention too starting from adolescent and pre-pregnancy period, which will in turn affect the immunity of a child. “Right from school level, there must be education programmes dealing with health and nutrition to make them aware about the basic elements. Like women are the most affected by anemia but it is a multipronged ailment which can affect anyone. So people need to have the basic knowledge which will help them take appropriate action and implement them in their diets and habits,” he added.

The GHI reviews every year is accompanied by a spotlight essay that encompasses aspects linked with hunger and malnutrition. The essay for this year talks about the increasing threat that climate change poses to global food production, nutrition and its obvious impact on the vulnerable sections of the population.

The Indian government has accorded high priority to combat health and nutrition problems in the country and through the use of technology and the help of community mobilisation, there may be potential positive outcomes regarding the health of all the residents of the country.

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