India has a ‘serious’ hunger problem at hand, with the country slipping in ranking to 100th among 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index, 2017. This is three notches behind last year’s rank of 97th – and behind the likes of North Korea, Bangladesh, and Iraq, even if ahead of Pakistan.
Over a three-year duration, the country has seen a slide of 45 positions from 55th in 2014. The index shows that more than a fifth of Indian children under the age of five weigh too little for their height and a third are too short for their age.
At 31.4, India’s 2017 GHI score is at the high end of the “serious” category, and one of the main factors pushing South Asia to the category of the worst-performing region on the index this year. The region is followed closely by Africa South of the Sahara. India is the third-worst in all of Asia — better only than Afghanistan and Pakistan -- according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which prepared the report.
Of the 19 South, East, and Southeast Asian countries ranked in the report, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and North Korea have the worst Global Hunger Index scores in Asia.
Worldwide, scores of the 119 countries in the report vary widely. A score of 9.9 or lower denotes low hunger; while scores between 35.0 and 49.9 denote alarming hunger, and a score of 20-34.9 means ‘serious’ problem of hunger.
“With a GHI score that is near the high end of the serious category, it is obvious that a high GDP growth rate alone is no guarantee of food and nutrition security for India’s vast majority. Inequality in all its forms must be addressed now if we are to meet SDG 2 of Zero Hunger for everyone by 2030,” says Nivedita Varshneya, Welthungerhilfe Country Director India.
P K Joshi, IFPRI director for South Asia, says even with the massive scale-up of national nutrition-focused programmes in India, drought and structural deficiencies have left a large number of poor in the country at the risk of malnourishment in 2017.
As of 2015-16, more than a fifth (21 per cent) of children in India suffered from wasting (low weight for height) — up from 20 per cent in 2005-2006. Only three other countries in this year’s GHI — Djibouti, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan — showed child wasting above 20 per cent. India’s child wasting rate has not shown any substantial improvement in the past 25 years.
By comparison, the country has made a considerable improvement in reducing its child stunting rate, down 29 per cent since 2000. But despite that progress, India has a considerably high stunting rate of 38.4.
Globally, the Central African Republic has the worst score (reflecting the highest hunger level) of any country ranked in the report, and is the sole country in the Index’s “extremely alarming” category.