While India has shown minor improvement in the global index on hunger, the high proportion of malnourished children still haunts the country
Trithesh Nandan | October 14, 2013
India has moved two spots up on the global hunger index (GHI) released on Monday worldwide compared to last year’s ranking. The new ranking may cheer Indian policymakers but the problem of a huge chunk of children below the age group of five being malnourished persists.
"India and Timor Leste have the highest prevalence of underweight children under five more (which is) than 40 percent in both countries," according to the GHI 2013 report released by international think-tank International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Currently, in its eighth edition, the think tank releases the GHI reports annually.
The study blames social inequality and the low nutritional, educational, and social status of women as factors that contribute to the high prevalence of malnutrition in children below the age of five.
Among 78 countries that were studied, India stood at 63 with a score of 21.3. However, the country still remains in the orange category tagged ‘alarming’ level of hunger as per the study. India had scored 22.9 in 2012 and ranked on the sixty-fifth position. The GHI score is calculated based on three counts: the proportion of people who are undernourished, the proportion of children under five who are underweight, and the mortality rate of children below the age group five.
However, India doesn’t figure in the improved category list. “In terms of absolute progress, the top ten countries in terms of improvements in GHI scores since 1990 were Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand, and Vietnam,” the report reveals.
"Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam saw the largest improvements among Asian countries with decreases in their scores ranging between 15 and 23 points," the study shows. South Asia has the highest regional GHI score, followed by Africa south of the Sahara while Burundi, Eritrea and Comoros have the highest levels of hunger.
The study notes that poor people are worst affected from natural and man-made disasters. In addition, most of the countries (including India) in the fourth quadrant are perennially vulnerable to floods and droughts.
"Most countries where the hunger situation is already 'alarming' or 'extremely alarming' are vulnerable to the negative effects of extreme weather events, climate change, population pressure, conflicts and economic crises," the study shows.
The study suggests that the traditional separation of relief and development efforts is not working.
"Adopting a resilience lens is challenging. We need to build consensus on what it means and on that basis adopt programs and policies that bridge the relief and development sectors," says IFPRI research fellow Derek Headey.
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