In Global Hunger Index, India ‘serious’, ranks 94 among 107 nations

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In Global Hunger Index 2020 India ranked 94 among 107 nations and categorised as 'serious'. Representational image.

In Global Hunger Index 2020 India ranked 94 among 107 nations and categorised as ‘serious’. Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan too are in the ‘serious’ category, but ranked higher than India in the hunger index.

While Bangladesh ranked 75, Myanmar and Pakistan rank 78th and 88th respectively. Nepal 73rd and Sri Lanka 64th are in the ‘moderate’ hunger category.

India ranked 94 in the Global Hunger Index 2020 and is in the ‘serious’ hunger category. Experts blame large states’ poor implementation processes, lack of effective monitoring, siloed approach in tackling malnutrition and poor performance behind the low ranking.

Last year India ranked 102 out of 117 countries.

Seventeen nations including China, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey, Cuba and Kuwait, shared the top rank with GHI scores of less than five, the website of the Global Hunger Index, that tracks hunger and malnutrition, said on Friday.

According to the report, 14 percent of India’s population was undernourished.

The country recorded a 37.4 percent stunting rate among children under five and a wasting rate of 17.3 percent. The under-five mortality rate stood at 3.7 percent.

Wasting is children who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute under-nutrition. Stunting is children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic under-nutrition.

Data from 1991 to 2014 for Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan showed that stunting was concentrated among children from households facing multiple forms of deprivation, including poor dietary diversity, low levels of maternal education, and household poverty.

Decline in under-five mortality

During the period, India experienced a decline in under-five mortality, driven largely by a decrease in deaths from birth asphyxia or trauma, neonatal infections, pneumonia, and diarrhoea, the report stated.

“However child mortality caused by prematurity and low birth weight, increased particularly in poorer states and rural areas. Prevention of prematurity and low birth-weight is a key factor with the potential to reduce under-five mortality in India. And it is identified through better antenatal care, education, and nutrition as well as reductions in anaemia and oral tobacco use,” it said.

Purnima Menon, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, said the performance of large states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, need improvement to see an overall change of India’s ranking.

“States like UP and Bihar affected the national average a lot. These states actually have a combination of high levels of malnutrition. And they contribute a lot to the population of the country.

“Every fifth child born in India is in Uttar Pradesh. So, if you have a high level of malnutrition in a state that has a high population, it contributes a lot to India’s average. Obviously then, India’s average will be slow to move,” she told PTI.

Menon said big states with large population and a high burden of malnutrition are actually affecting India’s average.

“So, if we want a change in India, then we would also need a change in large states,” she said.

Top-down approach

Shweta Khandelwal, the head of Nutrition Research at Public Health Foundation of India, said the country has one of the most impressive portfolios of programmes and policies in nutrition in the books.

“However, the ground realities are quite dismal.”

“Our top-down approach, poor implementation processes, lack of effective monitoring and siloed approaches often result in poor nutrition indices. We must integrate actions to make public health and nutrition a priority across each sector,” she told PTI.

Khandelwal suggested five measures to prevent exacerbation of hunger because of the pandemic.

“Safeguard and promote access to nutritious and safe and affordable diets. Invest in improving maternal and child nutrition through pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood. Re-activate and scale-up services for the early detection and treatment of child wasting. Maintain the provision of nutritious and safe school meals for vulnerable children. And expand social protection to safeguard access to nutritious diets and essential service,” she said.

She said, it is important to aim at curbing multiple forms of malnutrition holistically in a concerted manner rather than single short-sighted fixes.

“Hunger and undernutrition cannot and should not be fixed by mere calorie provision. All stakeholders steered by robust leadership must pay attention to making balanced healthy diets. And that should be climate-friendly, affordable and accessible to all,” she added.

The GHI score is calculated on four indicators -– undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality.

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