In the Global Hunger Index 2020, India ranked 94 out of 107 nations and is in the ‘extreme’ category of hunger. If we agree with experts blaming weak implementation procedures, lack of successful monitoring, siloed approach to addressing malnutrition and weak performance behind the low ranking by large states it is definitely a poor ranking for India.
The Global Hunger Index is a tool that measures and tracks hunger globally as well as by region and by country. The GHI is calculated annually, and its results appear in a report issued in October each year. GHI score is calculated on four indicators – undernourishment; child wasting, the share of children under the age of five who are wasted– who have low weight for their height reflecting acute undernutrition); child stunting, children under the age of five who have low height for their age reflecting chronic undernutrition; and child mortality – the mortality rate of children under the age of five.
In this year’s hunger index, neighbouring Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan are also in the “serious” group but ranked higher than India. While Bangladesh was ranked 75, Myanmar and Pakistan were ranked 78th and 88th.
The survey concludes that India’s 14% of the overall population is undernourished.
Nepal is in the ‘moderate’ group of hunger in 73rd and Sri Lanka in 64th place, the report showed.
On Friday, seventeen countries , including China, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey, Cuba and Kuwait, shared the top ranking with GHI scores of less than five, the Global Hunger Index website, which monitors hunger and malnutrition, said.
It also showed that the nation reported a stunting rate of 37.4 percent among children under five and a waste rate of 17.3 percent. Children who have low weight for their height, suggesting acute undernutrition, the under-five mortality rate was 3.7 per cent wasting. Stunting represents persistent undernutrition in children under the age of five who are low in height due to their age.
Data for Bangladesh , India, Nepal , and Pakistan from 1991 through 2014 showed that there is increased deprivation, lack of proper dietary habits and low maternal education as well as high poverty.
“Child mortality, however, increased particularly in poorer states and rural areas due to prematurity and low birth weight. Prevention of prematurity and low birthweight is recognised as a key factor with the potential to reduce under-five mortality in India through actions such as better prenatal care , education and nutrition, as well as reductions in the use of anaemia and oral tobacco,” it said.
Experts agree that inadequate processes of implementation, lack of adequate monitoring and siloed approaches to addressing malnutrition frequently contribute to poor nutrition rates.
India experienced a decrease in under-five mortality over this time, driven largely by a decrease in birth asphyxia or trauma deaths, neonatal infections , pneumonia, and diarrhoea, the report said.
Purnima Menon, a senior research fellow at the New Delhi International Food Policy Research Institute, said that in order to see an overall improvement in India ‘s ranking, the performance of large states such as Uttar Pradesh , Bihar and Madhya Pradesh must be improved.
The national average is highly influenced by states such as UP and Bihar states that currently have a mixture of high levels of malnutrition and contribute a great deal to the country’s population.
In India, every fifth child born is in Uttar Pradesh. So, if in a state with a large population, you have a high level of malnutrition, it contributes a lot to India’s average. Obviously, then, India’s average is going to move slowly,’ she told PTI.
Shweta Khandelwal, Head of Nutrition Research and Additional Professor at the Indian Public Health Foundation, said the country’s books have one of the most impressive portfolios of nutrition programmes and policies but the ground facts, however, are rather dismissive.
“Evidence shows that our top-down approach, inadequate implementation processes, lack of successful monitoring and siloed approaches to addressing malnutrition (missing convergence) frequently contribute to poor indices of nutrition. We need to incorporate efforts in each sector to make public health and nutrition a priority,” she said to PTI. It is important to aim at holistically curbing multiple types of malnutrition in a coordinated way rather than single short-sighted fixes, she said.
Ms Khandelwal proposed five measures to prevent the pandemic from exacerbating hunger.
Safeguard and encourage access to healthy, safe and affordable diets; invest in improving maternal and infant nutrition during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood; reactivate and scale up programmes for early identification and treatment of infant waste; ensure the provision of vulnerable children with healthy and safe school meals and extend social security to safeguard access to nutrition.’
According to GHI, India ranked 102 out of 117 in 2019.