General Studies 2:
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
General Studies 1:
- Social empowerment
- Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues
Tackling hunger in India
This year’s report of Global Hunger Index shows that India has slipped three positions from last year — it ties with Djibouti and war-ravaged Rwanda for the 100th rank among 119 nations.
The report does mention that India has scaled up its Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme and the National Health Mission but also notes that they are yet to achieve adequate coverage.
What is GHI?
Published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Concern Worldwide, an Irish aid agency, and Welthungerhilfe, a German private aid organisation, the Global Hunger Index tracks hunger worldwide.
The GHI score is a multidimensional index composed of four indicators—proportion of undernourished in the population, prevalence of child mortality, child stunting, and child wasting. On the severity scale, a GHI score of less than 10 means “low” prevalence of hunger while a score of more than 50 implies an “extremely alarming” situation.
Where does India stands?
- India has a “serious” hunger problem and ranks 100 among 119 developing countries, lagging behind countries such as North Korea and Iraq
- With a global hunger index (GHI) score of 31.4, India is at the high end of the “serious” category
- With more than a fifth of the country’s children under five suffering from “wasting” — low weight for height —India is among the very few countries that have made no progress, over the past 20 years, in arresting the problem.
The report draws on India’s National Family Health Survey to show that the proportion of children in the country suffering the problem has increased from 17 per cent in 1998-2002 to 21 per cent in 2012-2016. This is way above the global prevalence — less than 10 per cent of under-five children suffer from wasting.
Only three other countries— Djibouti, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan — have a child-wasting rate of over 20 per cent.
- India has considerably improved its child stunting rate, down 29% since 2000, but even that progress leaves India with a relatively high stunting rate of 38.4%.
- More than one-fifth of Indian children under five weigh too little for their height and over a third are too short for their age.
Why does India always score poorly on the Global Hunger Index?
It should be a pressing question for the country’s policymakers.
- The Centre and the states do have several schemes to improve the nutritional status of people in the country. But confronting the country’s nutritional problems has never acquired adequate urgency.
- Many of India’s social welfare schemes — including those related to food security —have been facing challenges related to identifying and reaching targeted groups.
- As the report highlighted, the country’s top 1% own more than 50% of its wealth, India is the world’s second largest food producer, yet it is also home to the second highest population of under-nourished in the world.
- The continued poor performance in the Global Hunger Index should make the government think on the shortcomings with various schemes and steps taken in this regard.
- The report also carries an important message for the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM): The project should not lose sight of the links between sanitation and nutrition.
Water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, for example, are known to result in poor absorption of nutrients, especially in children under five.
- 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. Growing inequality in Indian society needs to be checked.
- The ability to access food items needs to be improved by seeing exclusions from BPL category is reduced.
- Household/family knowledge and information about good nutrition is must. This includes knowledge about locally available foods that are good from the nutrition perspective. This can be based on. In this regard access to media such as newspapers, radio and TV, coupled with propagation of such information on radio and through programmes like the ICDS that directly educate mothers about child rearing and nutrition should be ensured.
- The state of health needs to be improved. Public health measures like clean drinking water, sanitation, sewerage, control of communicable and epidemic diseases and public health education play an important role in reducing mortality rates at every age and across gender. In the Indian environment, access to water and toilets, breastfeeding (to impart immunity in an unhealthy environment), access to sound health advice/treatment, the prevalence of vaccination and availability of vitamin supplements are possible indicators are the basics that should be availed on priority basis.
- The government’s initiative of resolving this issue by linking targeted welfare schemes to instruments such as Aadhaar is a welcome step and should be taken forward.
Connecting the dots:
- What do you mean by Global Hunger Index? India comes under the serious category in the report. This is despite multiple schemes launched by the government. Critically discuss the reasons behind.
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