India in serious category in Hunger Index

Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a multidimensional measurement of the situation of hunger prevailing across the world. Published by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), it is a statistical tool and measures the progress and failures in the global fight against hunger in the world. It is being published since 2006 and is updated once a year. GHI combines four indicators:

  1. The proportion of the undernourished as a percentage of the population
  2. The proportion of children under the age of five suffering from wasting (low weight for height)
  3. The proportion of children under the age of five suffering from stunting (height for age)
  4. The mortality rate of children under the age of five

The Index ranks countries on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best score (no hunger) and 100 being the worst, although neither of these extremes is reached in practice. Values less than 10.0 reflect low hunger, values from 10.0 to 19.9 reflect moderate hunger, values from 20.0 to 34.9 indicate serious hunger, values from 35.0 to 49.9 reflect alarming hunger, and values of 50.0 or more reflect extremely alarming hunger levels.

According to Merrium-Webster dictionary, hunger is craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient or, a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed by the UN also incorporate zero hunger concept as Goal 2 which says “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”

Facts about hunger (UN)

  • Globally, one in nine people in the world today (795 million) are undernourished
  • The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 per cent of the population is undernourished.
  • Asia is the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly.
  • Southern Asia faces the greatest hunger burden, with about 281 million undernourished people. In sub-Saharan Africa, projections for the 2014-2016 period indicate a rate of undernourishment of almost 23 per cent.
  • Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 per cent) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.
  • One in four of the world’s children suffer stunted growth. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
  • 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.

Facts about Food Security (UN)

  • Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households.
  • 500 million small farms worldwide, most still rainfed, provide up to 80 per cent of food consumed in a large part of the developing world. Investing in smallholder women and men is an important way to increase food security and nutrition for the poorest, as well as food production for local and global markets.
  • Since the 1900s, some 75 per cent of crop diversity has been lost from farmers’ fields. Better use of agricultural biodiversity can contribute to more nutritious diets, enhanced livelihoods for farming communities and more resilient and sustainable farming systems.
  • If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.
  • 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity worldwide – most of whom live in rural areas of the developing world. Energy poverty in many regions is a fundamental barrier to reducing hunger and ensuring that the world can produce enough food to meet future demand.

Global Hunger Index (GHI)

The recently released GHI ranks India 100 among 119 nations putting it in the serious category. Strikingly, it lags behind North Korea (93) and Iraq (78). The Index says that given that three quarters of South Asia’s population reside in India, the situation in the country strongly influences South Asia’s regional scores. India also lags behind its neighbours such as Nepal (72), Myanmar (77), Bangladesh (88), Sri Lanka (84) and China (29). India is ahead of Pakistan only which has been ranked 106 in the Index. The best developing nations in the context of hunger according to the report are Chile, Cuba and Turkey.

The report also points out that in India country’s top 1 per cent own more than 50 per cent of its wealth. Paradoxically, India is the second largest food producer in the world yet it houses the second highest population of undernourished in the world. More than 21 per cent of children in India suffer from wasting. India’s child wasting rate has not shown improvement in the last 25 years. On the contrary, India has shown improvements in child stunting rate, down 29 per cent since 2000 however, even then it is 38.4 per cent at present.

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