India has a ‘serious’ hunger problem at hand, with the country slipping three notches to 100 among 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI), 2017. This is worse than the likes of North Korea, Bangladesh, and Iraq, and better only than Pakistan and Afghanistan among Asian countries.
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.
Of the 19 South, East, and South East Asian countries ranked in the report, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and North Korea have the worst GHI scores in Asia.
“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 Sustainable Development Goal 2 of Zero Hunger for everyone by 2030,” says Nivedita Varshneya, country director, Welthungerhilfe 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.
The first version of this report, with an incorrect reading, stated that India had dropped 45 spots on the index. The error has been corrected in this version