India’s score in Global Hunger Index 2021 shows ‘a level of hunger that’s serious’

Pakistan (92), Nepal (76), Bangladesh (76) and Sri Lanka (65) fared better than India among the 116 countries.
Midday meals being served in a school in India
Midday meals being served in a school in India

The US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Germany-based Welthungerhilfe released the Global Hunger Index 2021 on Thursday, October 14, and India was ranked 101 out of 116 nations. India fared only better than Afghanistan (103) among its Southeast Asian neighbours. Pakistan (92), Nepal (76), Bangladesh (76) and Sri Lanka (65) fared better. 

The nations found to be facing more acute hunger issues than India were majorly African nations such as Somalia (worst), Yemen and Congo. According to the authors of the GHI report, India’s hunger score has been deteriorating over the past two decades. While the GHI score was 38.8 in 2000, it dropped to 37.4 in 2006, followed by 28.8 in 20112 to 27.5 in 2021. GHI is calculated by using data of child mortality (33%), undernourishment (33%), and 16.5% each of child wasting and child stunting. 

Analysing data from 2016-20, the GHI authors found that 17.3% of children in India are wasted (too thin for his/her height) while 34.7% of children under five are stunted. Further data from 2019 suggest that 3.4% of children die before turning five years old. 

The report said, “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 for whom a lack of dietary energy, protein, and/or micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) leads to a high risk of illness, poor physical and cognitive development, and death.”

It added, “The inclusion of both child wasting and child stunting allows the GHI to document both acute and chronic undernutrition. By combining multiple indicators, the index reduces the elects of random measurement error.” 

Zero Hunger by 2030 is the second Sustainable Development Goal laid down by the United Nations.

The report identified three Cs that “threaten to wipe out any progress that has been made against hunger in recent years” —conflict, climate change, and COVID-19. “The COVID-19 pandemic, which has spiked in different parts of the world throughout 2020 and 2021, has shown just how vulnerable we are to global contagion and the associated health and economic consequences. As we struggle to contain the current pandemic, we must be realistic that this will not be the last,” it said. 

“As a result of these forces—as well as a host of underlying factors such as poverty, inequality, unsustainable food systems, lack of investment in agriculture and rural development, inadequate safety nets, and poor governance—progress in the fight against hunger shows signs of stalling and even being reversed. It is in this dire context that the hunger situation is playing out in the world as a whole, in global regions, and in individual countries.” 

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