India is behind its neighbours Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh in Global Hunger Index (GHI) list of 117 countries that tracks hunger and malnutrition, slipping from 95th rank in 2010 to 102nd in 2019.
The report was jointly published by Concern Worldwide, an Irish aid agency, and Welthungerlife, a German NGO.
Neighbouring countries like Nepal (73rd), Sri Lanka (66th), Bangladesh (88th), Myanmar (69th) and Pakistan (94th), although all in the ‘serious’ hunger category are better at feeding its citizens than India, according to this index. China (25th) has moved to ‘low’ severity category and Sri Lanka in the ‘moderate’ severity.
Global Hunger Index calculates the levels of hunger and undernutrition worldwide. The four indicators include undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality.
“Using this combination of indicators to measure hunger offers several advantages. The indicators included in the GHI formula reflect caloric deficiencies as well as poor nutrition. The undernourishment indicator captures the nutrition situation of the population as a whole, while the indicators specific to children reflect the nutrition status within a particularly vulnerable subset of the population” the GHI report says.
The annual report has marked 47 countries in ‘serious’ and ‘alarming’ hunger levels and one in ‘critically alarming’. India’s low performance on hunger highlights high levels of child undernourishment.
In the case of infants aged between six months to 23 months, only 9.6 percent in India are fed a “minimum acceptable diet”. This explains that less than 10 percent of the infants in India are properly fed.
The child wasting rate ( low weight for height) in India stands at 20.8 percent which is the highest of any country studied for the GHI report. The child stunting rate (height for age), at 37.9 percent, has also been termed as very high.
The report highlights the central government’s Swachh Bharat program, saying open defecation is being practised despite the construction of new toilets and it highly jeopardises the population’s and children’s health.
“Even with new latrine construction, however, open defecation is still practised. This situation jeopardises the population’s health and consequently, children’s growth and development as their ability to absorb nutrients are compromised,” the report reads.
However, the country has demonstrated an improvement in other indicators such as the under-5 mortality rate, prevalence of stunting among children and prevalence of undernourishment owing to inadequate food, the report reads.
Overflowing Granaries And Empty Stomachs?
This report comes at a time when the government has decided to liquidate its grain stocks as the granaries of Food Corporation of India (FCI) are overflowing.
The Department of Food and Public Distribution has requested the Ministry of External Affairs to explore the possibility of export of wheat and rice with the FCI in the form of humanitarian aid to deserving countries.
Globally, the number of hungry people rose 5 per cent in the most recent three years: From 785 million in 2015 to 822 million in 2018. Many countries have higher hunger levels now than in 2010, the Global Hunger Index 2019 report read.
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