New Delhi: India has ranked 107 out of 121 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022. The peer-reviewed annual report, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, termed the level of hunger in India as ‘serious’ as its GHI score is 29.1. India’s neighbours performed better in GHI 2022 with Nepal ranked 81, Sri Lanka 64, Bangladesh 84 and Pakistan at 99. In 2021, India secured the 101st position among 116 countries assessed. Important to note, GHI scores are comparable within each year’s report, but not between different years’ reports because of updated data, changing methodology and the number of countries being assessed each year. However, GHI scores of 2000, 2007, 2014, and 2022 are all comparable because they all reflect the revised methodology and the latest revisions of data.
In 2000, India’s GHI score was 38.8 which as per the report was alarming. Seven years later, the GHI score dropped to 36.3, still in an alarming category. In 2014, the GHI score was reported to be 28.2 but in 2022, a reverse trend is seen with the GHI score shooting up to 29.1
What is GHI and how is it calculated?
The Global Hunger Index is a tool for measuring and tracking hunger at global, regional, and national levels. The aim of the GHI is to trigger action to reduce hunger around the world. The four key components of the GHI are:
Undernourishment: the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake;
Child stunting: the share of children under-5 who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition;
Child wasting: the share of children under-5 who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition;
Child mortality: the share of children who die before their fifth birthday, partly reflecting the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.
Under nourishment and child mortality get one-third weightage age. Whereas, child stunting and child wasting have one-sixth weightage.
India’s performance in GHI 2022:
As per the findings of the GHI, since 2000, India has made substantial progress, but there are still areas of concern, particularly regarding child nutrition. Here are some key findings:
– The proportion of undernourished in the population had come down from 18.4 per cent in 2000 to 14.8 per cent in 2014. However, in 2022, with a 1.5 per cent rise, the percentage of undernourished in the population rose to 16.3.
– Child wasting in India continues to soar. The prevalence has increased from 17.1 per cent in 2000 to 19.3 in 2022. In 2014, child wasting had dropped to 15.1 per cent but an upsurge once again reflects a reverse in trends. India’s child wasting rate, at 19.3 per cent, is the highest of any country in the world and drives up the region’s average owing to India’s large population.
– The under-five child mortality rate is relatively low at 3.3 per cent compared to 9.2 per cent in 2000.
– Child stunting has seen a significant decrease – from 54.2 per cent in 2000 to 35.5 per cent in 2022. But, it is still very high.
Central Government Rejects The Findings Of GHI 2022, Calls It ‘An Erroneous Measure Of Hunger’
The Ministry of Women and Child Development issued a press release on October 15 and strongly rejected the findings of the Global Hunger Index 2022 and India’s ranking. It said,
A consistent effort is yet again visible to taint India’s image as a Nation that does not fulfill the food security and nutritional requirements of its population. Misinformation seems to be the hallmark of the annually released Global Hunger Index.
The central government believes that the GHI ‘suffers from serious methodological issues’. It stated,
Three out of the four indicators used for calculation of the index are related to the health of children and cannot be representative of the entire population. These indicators are outcomes of complex interactions of various other factors like drinking water, sanitation, genetics, environment and utilisation of food intake apart from hunger, which is taken as the causative/outcome factor for stunting and wasting in the GHI. Calculating hunger based on mainly indicators relating to health indicators of children is neither scientific nor rational.
The fourth indicator is the proportion of undernourishment for which the report has referred to data from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). The government said that the FAO estimate is based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) Survey Module conducted through Gallop World Poll, which is an opinion poll based on eight questions with a sample size of 3000 respondents. It added,
The data collected from a miniscule sample for a country of India’s size through FIES has been used to compute PoU value for India which is not only wrong and unethical, it also reeks of obvious bias. The publishing agencies of the Global Hunger Report, Concern Worldwide and Welt Hunger Hilfe, have evidently not done their due diligence before releasing the report.
The government also said,
The report is not only disconnected from ground reality but also chooses to deliberately ignore efforts made by the Government to ensure food Security for the population, especially during the Covid Pandemic.
Some of the initiatives taken by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
– The distribution of additional free-of-cost foodgrains (rice/wheat) to about 80 crore National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries at the scale of 5 Kg per person per month under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY), over and above the regular monthly NFSA foodgrains. The scheme launched in March 2020 has been extended till December 2022.
– Under Anganwadi Services, since the Covid-19 pandemic, supplementary nutrition was provided to approximately 7.71 crore children upto the age of 6 years and to 1.78 crore pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Experts’ Take On The Global Hunger Index 2022 Report
Dipa Sinha, a Right to Food Campaign activist opines that we should not say that India’s rank has fallen as the number of countries assessed this year has increased to 121 from 116 last year. Commenting on the government’s criticism of the report and clarifying the methodology, Ms Sinha said,
The government says the same thing every year that the report is not a measure of hunger but of malnutrition. However, malnutrition is also an issue and we cannot deny that. Secondly, the Global Hunger Index has issues but it is not based on Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) 8 questions that the government is claiming. The researchers have used a different proportion of undernourishment. Nevertheless, the report is a reality and states facts. We are performing poorly in each of the four indices.
Ms Sinha said there are other sources of data that paint a similar picture. For example, Global Food Insecurity Experience Scale (GFIES) from Right to Food India’s Hunger Watch Survey shows that food insecurity was common among the people surveyed. Ms Sinha said,
A perception survey was conducted between December 2021 and January 2022 in 14 Indian states and it was found that there is a high level of food insecurity and it still hasn’t gone back to pre-covid levels. Even after almost two years of national lockdown, the impact is felt. As per our survey, 58 per cent of the people were worried about not having enough food.
Further talking about government programmes and relief initiatives to help the most vulnerable, Ms Sinha said,
The government’s efforts did make a dent. The progress would have been even worse without them. But given the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic situation, we needed more. This is the period where incomes have fallen. The support wasn’t enough. Food insecurity was there even before COVID hit us. Whatever government did extra was to mitigate COVID impact.
Sharing his take on GHI findings, Basanta Kar, Recipient of the Global Nutrition Leadership Award, said,
To me, GHI is more of a nutrition index as all the indicators reflect the status of nutrition and its impact. The name ‘hunger’ is given because it is attractive. Although there are debates about methodology and data, the issue can’t be ignored. Right now, we need to prevent malnutrition so that children do not slip into wasting. We also have to invest in Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) so as to prevent Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). Nutrition should be a part of the ideology and household name. We have to bring down the status of child wasting and child stunting to a single digit and it is possible. China and Korea have done it, why not India.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.