New Delhi: India has been classified as a country with ‘serious’ levels of hunger according to the 2019 Global Hunger Index.
India has been ranked 102 out of 117 countries in terms of severity of hunger. The country with the severest problem of hunger at rank 117 is the Central African Republic.
The Global Hunger Index calculates the levels of hunger and undernutrition worldwide. The four indicators for the index are undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality.
Globally, the levels of hunger have decreased and the global indicator has changed from ‘serious’ to the cusp of ‘moderate and serious.’ The index says this achievement coincides with a global decline in levels of poverty from 1999 to 2015, and cites that poverty and hunger and closely related.
India makes a significant dent on the global values: “Because of its large population, India’s GHI indicator values have an outsized impact on the indicator values for the region.”
Child wasting in India is the highest rate of wasting for any country in the world at 20.8%. Child stunting is at 37.9%.
SAARC countries’ comparative scores:
India’s score on hunger is 30.3, which means it suffers from a level of hunger that is ‘serious.’
While this is an improvement upon India’s performance in the last few years (India’s score was 38.8 in 2000, 38.9 in 2005, and 32 in 2010), there is little to celebrate.
The report makes a mention of the Swachh Bharat campaign but says that it has not worked well enough, despite being important: “Even with new latrine construction, however, open defecation is still practiced. This situation jeopardises the population’s health and consequently, children’s growth and development as their ability to absorb nutrients is compromised.”
While India continues to weigh the world down on hunger, two neighbouring South Asian countries have done well: Bangladesh and Nepal.
Bangladesh has seen stunting decline from 58.5% to 49.2% between 1997 and 2011. Nepal has seen a drop in stunting from 56.6% in 2001 to 40.1% in 2011.
India’s 102 rank means that there are only fifteen other countries in this index which are worse off than India. Nearly all these are African countries: Sierra Leone, Uganda, Djibouti, Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Timor-Leste, Haiti, Liberia, Zambia, Madagascar, Chad, Yemen and Central African Republic.
Some caution needs to be exercised while comparing different years’ performances on the Global Hunger Index. The method of scoring has changed over the years, since the 2016 report.
Only 117 countries have been included in this index. Fifteen countries were not included as they did not have data. Some of these are also low income countries so it is possible they too would have substantial levels of hunger.
Seventeen countries which have a score of less than five (that is, that their levels of hunger are very low) have not been given individual ranks but have been ranked collectively. And more than one country could have the same ranking if they got the same score in 2019.