Hunger: Analysis of GHI

  • IASbaba
  • November 1, 2021
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  • GS-2: Issues relating to poverty and hunger. 
  • GS-2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Hunger: Analysis of GHI

Context: In the recently released Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranking, India ranked at 101st out of a total 116 countries (India’s 2020 rank was 94).

  • This year’s slide in the rank assumes significance especially in the context of COVID-19. 
  •  India is also behind most of the neighbouring countries. Pakistan was placed at 92 rank, Nepal at 76 and Bangladesh also at 76.

The government has questioned the methodology and claimed that the ranking does not represent the ground reality. 

This calls for careful scrutiny of the methodology, especially of the GHI’s components.

What are the components of GHI?

The GHI has four components. 

Components Applicability Weightage Data Sourced from
1. Undernourishment (Insufficient Calorie Intake) All age groups 33.3% Food and Agriculture Organization’s Suite of Food Security Indicators (2021)
2.  Wasting (low weight for height) Children under five years 16.6% WHO, UNICEF and World Bank, complemented with the latest data from the Demographic and Health Surveys.
3.  Stunting (low height for age) Children under five years 16.6% WHO, UNICEF and World Bank, complemented with the latest data from the Demographic and Health Surveys.
4.  Mortality Children under five years 33.3% UN Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. 
  • India’s wasting prevalence (17.3%) is one among the highest in the world. 
  • Child stunting in India declined from 54.2% in 1998–2002 to 34.7% in 2016-2020, 
  • Child wasting remains around 17% throughout the two decades of the 21st century.
  • Had the GHI been estimated using the latest data on calorie intake, usually provided by the National Sample Survey Office, things might have looked even worse given that the leaked report of 2019 indicated that consumption expenditure in India declined between 2011-12 and 2017-18 by 4% (rural India by 10%)

Issues with GHI

  • Conceptually, the GHI is largely children-oriented with a higher emphasis on undernutrition than on hunger and its hidden forms, including micronutrient deficiencies.
  • The first component — calorie insufficiency — is problematic for many reasons. 
  • The lower calorie intake, which does not necessarily mean deficiency, may also stem from reduced physical activity, better social infrastructure (road, transport and healthcare) and access to energy-saving appliances at home, among others.
  • For a vast and diverse country like India, using a uniform calorie norm to arrive at deficiency prevalence means failing to recognise regional factors.
  • For instance: Larger proportion of population in developed states like Kerala & Tamil Nadu may require less calorie due to high levels of mechanisation of economy. Hence, they can be wrongly counted as undernourished.

Relation between Stunting & Wasting

  • Stunting is a chronic, long-term measure of undernutrition, while wasting is an acute, short-term measure. 
  • Child wasting can result due to immediate lack of nutritional intake and sudden exposure to an infectious atmosphere. 
  • Quite possibly, several episodes of wasting without much time to recover can translate into stunting. 
  • A higher order of priority should be accorded to stunting as it is a stable indicator and does not oscillate with minor changes in circumstances, while wasting does.
  • If India can tackle wasting by effectively monitoring regions that are more vulnerable to socioeconomic and environmental crises, it can possibly improve wasting and stunting simultaneously.
  • There seems to be no short-cut way of improving stunting without addressing wasting. 

India’s better tackling of Child Mortality

  • Studies suggest that child undernutrition and mortality are usually closely related, as child undernutrition plays an important facilitating role in child mortality. 
  • India’s relatively better performance in child mortality merits a mention. 
  • India’s child mortality rate has been lower despite it having higher levels of stunting
  • This implies that though India was not able to ensure better nutritional security for all children under five years, it was able to save many lives due to the availability of and access to better health facilities. 


This ranking should prompt us to look at our policy focus and interventions and ensure that they can effectively address the concerns raised by the GHI, especially against pandemic-induced nutrition insecurity.

Connecting the dots:

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