Topic: General Studies 1,2:
- Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Global Hunger Index
Context: India has been ranked 94 on the 2020 Global Hunger Index (GHI), lower than neighbours like Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The number of young children in India who are very short and thin, reflecting severe undernutrition, puts it alongside the poorest African nation
What is the Global Hunger Index, and what determines its ranking?
- The GHI is an annual peer-reviewed publication by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
- It aims to track hunger at global, regional and national levels. It uses four parameters to calculate its scores.
- One third of the score comes from the level of undernourishment in a country, which is the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake, and uses Food and Agriculture Organization data.
- A third of the score comes from child mortality rate (under the age of five years), which often reflects the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.
- The remaining third of the score is based on child wasting, which is the share of children who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition, and child stunting, which is the share of children who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition.
What data is used for calculating the Index?
- The above parameters use information from the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the United Nations
- All these international organisations draw from national data, which, in India’s case, includes the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS).
- There is always a time lag in such data, so the 2020 scores are based on data from 2015-19.
- This results in a 100-point scale, with zero meaning no hunger at all.
How does India fare on the different parameters in comparison to other countries?
- In 2020, India falls in the ‘serious’ category on the Index, with a total score of 27.2.
- India is tied at the 94th rank out of 107 countries, sharing the rank with Sudan.
- This is a definite improvement from the situation two decades ago, when it scored 38.9 and fell into the ‘alarming’ category.
- China and Brazil both scored under five, and are considered to have very low levels of hunger. South Africa is ranked 60 with a score of 13.5, indicating moderate levels of hunger.
- Overall undernourishment, 14% of India’s population does not get enough calories, an improvement from almost 20% in 2005-07.
- Child mortality rate is 3.7%, a significant drop from 9.2% in 2000.
- Child Stunting: Almost 35% of Indian children are stunted, and although this is much better than the 54.2% rate of 2000.
- Child Wasting: 17.3% of Indian children under five are wasted, which is the highest prevalence of child wasting in the world. There is no change from two decades ago, when it was 17.1%.
What is the main cause for such high levels of child stunting and wasting in India?
- African babies are usually healthy at birth, but as they grow up into their toddler years, undernourishment starts to kick in.
- In contrast, South Asian babies show very high levels of wasting during early years of lives, particularly during the first six months
- This is because of poor maternal health in South Asian countries like India. Mothers are too thin, too short and too undernourished themselves before they become pregnant and this affects new-born’s health aspects as well.
- Almost 42% of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have a low body mass index (BMI), while 54% have anaemia
- Social Factors like Early Marriage: Many women in India and South Asian Countries start their pregnancies in their late teens which impacts not only their health but also that of child born
- Poor sanitation, leading to diarrhoea, is another major cause of child wasting and stunting. Only 36% of households disposed of children’s stools in a safe manner. One in 10 children under the age of five suffer from diarrhoea.
How do different Indian States compare?
- Almost one in three children in Jharkhand show acute undernutrition, with a 29% rate of wasting
- Other large States such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have one in five children who are wasted.
- Interestingly, other States that usually fare poorly on development indices, such as Bihar, Rajasthan and Odisha, actually do better than the national average, with 13-14% rates of wasting.
- Uttarakhand and Punjab, along with several north-eastern States, have levels of child wasting below 10%.
- In terms of stunting, Bihar performs the worst, with 42% of children too short for their age.
- At the national level, among social groups, the prevalence of stunting is highest amongst children from the Scheduled Tribes (43.6 percent), followed by Scheduled Castes (42.5 percent) and Other Backwards Castes (38.6 percent).
What needs to be done?
- Although India has overall food security with record levels of foodgrain production in recent years, access to healthy food is still difficult for poor households.
- Food insecurity, poor sanitation, inadequate housing, limited access to healthcare — all result in maternal distress that leads to the kind of slow, chronic wasting seen in Indian children. All these needs to be addressed for improving the malnutrition among Children.
- Every kind of household deprivation that makes life difficult for women needs to be dealt with. The focus needs to be on healthy mothers.