From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : GHI
Mains level : Credibility of GHI
India ranks 107 out of 121 countries on the Global Hunger Index in which it fares worse than all countries in South Asia barring war-torn Afghanistan.
Global Hunger Index (GHI)
- The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed annual report, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
- It determines hunger on a 100-point scale, where 0 is the best possible score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst.
- It is designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional, and country levels.
- The aim of the GHI is to trigger action to reduce hunger around the world.
For each country in the list, the GHI looks at four indicators:
- Undernourishment (which reflects inadequate food availability): calculated by the share of the population that is undernourished (that is, whose caloric intake is insufficient)
- Child Wasting (which reflects acute undernutrition): calculated by the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, those who have low weight for their height)
- Child Stunting (which reflects chronic undernutrition): calculated by the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (that is, those who have low height for their age)
- Child Mortality (which reflects both inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environment): calculated by the mortality rate of children under the age of five
- India’s child wasting rate (low weight for height), at 19.3%, is worse than the levels recorded in 2014 (15.1%) and even 2000 (17.15),
- It is the highest for any country in the world and drives up the region’s average owing to India’s large population.
- Prevalence of undernourishment has also risen in the country from 14.6% in 2018-2020 to 16.3% in 2019-2021.
- This translates into 224.3 million people in India considered undernourished.
How India performs among its neighbours?
- India’s score of 29.1 places it in the ‘serious’ category. India also ranks below Sri Lanka (64), Nepal (81), Bangladesh (84), and Pakistan (99).
- Afghanistan (109) is the only country in South Asia that performs worse than India on the index.
- China is among the countries collectively ranked between 1 and 17 having a score of less than five.
Has India improved somewhere?
- India has shown improvement in child stunting, which has declined from 38.7% to 35.5% between 2014 and 2022, as well as child mortality which has also dropped from 4.6% to 3.3% in the same comparative period.
- On the whole, India has shown a slight worsening with its GHI score increasing from 28.2 in 2014 to 29.1 in 2022.
Reasons for such poor performance
- Poor maternal health: Mothers are too young, too short, too thin and too undernourished themselves, before they get pregnant, during pregnancy, and then after giving birth, during breast-feeding.
- Poor sanitation: Poor sanitation, leading to diarrhoea, is another major cause of child wasting and stunting.
- Food insecurity: Low dietary diversity in India is also a key factor in child malnutrition.
- Poverty: Almost 50 million households in India are dependent on these small and marginal holdings.
- Livelihood loss: The rural livelihoods loss after COVID and lack of income opportunities other than the farm sector have contributed heavily to the growing joblessness in rural areas.
Issues over credibility of GHI
- India has ranked among many African countries while it is among the top 10 food-producing countries in the world.
- The GHI is largely children-oriented with a higher emphasis on under-nutrition than on hunger and its hidden forms, including micronutrient deficiencies.
- The first component — calorie insufficiency — is problematic for many reasons.
- The lower calorie intake, which does not necessarily mean deficiency, may also stem from reduced physical activity, better social infrastructure and access to energy-saving appliances at home, among others.
- For a vast and diverse country like India, using a uniform calorie norm to arrive at deficiency prevalence means failing to recognise the huge regional imbalances in factors that may lead to differentiated calorie requirements at the State level.
- The low ranking does not mean that India fares uniformly poor in every aspect.
- This ranking should prompt us to look at our policy focus and interventions and ensure that they can effectively address the concerns raised by the GHI, especially against pandemic-induced nutrition insecurity