The poor ranking of India on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) and its prompt rebuttal by the government have become almost an annual ritual over the past few years. The GHI 2022 is no exception in this respect.
What are the findings?
- It ranks India lowly at 107 among 121 countries, behind its smaller neighbours like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, to put it in the “serious” hunger category.
- Worse still, the country is reckoned to have the world’s highest rate of child wasting (low weight for height).
- Last year, India was ranked 101 out of 116 countries, while in 2020 it was slotted at 94th position.
What does the government say?
The government has discounted the findings of this index, maintaining that these are based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale Survey conducted through Gallup World Poll with a thin sample size that cannot be expected to fairly represent the situation in a country of India’s dimensions. No due diligence had been done before releasing the report, the official statement has maintained.
Addressing the problem –
- Even if the GHI is deemed unworthy of being taken at its face value because of its methodology, the fact that malnutrition is rampant in the country is hard to deny.
- This is despite India having the world’s largest food distribution system and a slew of nutrition-oriented welfare schemes for supplying highly subsidised or free food to the vulnerable sections of the population.
- The mid-day meal scheme for school children and the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana for providing free ration to about 800 million people are the notable examples of this.
- Yet, what has been achieved through these initiatives is chiefly the banishment of stark hunger, as used to be reflected in starvation deaths in the past, and reduction in the level of undernourishment.
- None of the existing schemes focuses on the basic need for balanced and wholesome food, which alone can alleviate malnutrition or hidden hunger.
- The prevalence of nutritional deficiencies, and the resultant wasting and stunting (impaired growth) of kids, is borne out even by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), whose authenticity is indubitable.
Government data –
- The findings of the NFHS-5, conducted in 2019-21, have shown that though the level of undernourishment and malnourishment has shown a downward trend over the past few years, it is still a matter of grave concern.
- The incidence of both stunting and wasting has declined just by 2 percentage points since 2015-16 (NFHS-4). What is worse, the incidence of anaemia among under-five children has escalated from 58.6 per cent to 67 per cent during this period.
- In fact, the cases of anaemia are soaring even among adults — rising from 53.1 per cent to 57 per cent among women and from 22.7 per cent to 25 per cent among men.
- Another significant point that merits attention —and which is also an indicator of nutritional disorder — is that the proportion of overweight children has surged from 2.1 per cent to 3.4 per cent since 2015-16.
Way forward –
Clearly, the menace of malnutrition is not only widespread and deep-rooted, but is worsening in all respects, regardless of the age and gender of the affected population. This issue, therefore, can no longer be taken lightly and needs serious corrective action aimed at improving the consumption of diverse and nutritious foods like millets, fruit, vegetables, and protein-rich vegetarian and non-vegetarian products.
Source – Business Standard
QUESTION – What is the ‘global hunger index’? Why did the government of India rebuke it? What is the real takeaway from the index? Discuss.