Understanding the Global Hunger Index

  • IASbaba
  • October 18, 2022
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The story so far: For the second time in two years, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has rejected the Global Hunger Index (GHI) that ranked India 107 among 121 countries.

  • India was accorded a score of 29.1 out of 100 (with 0 representing no hunger), placing it behind Sri Lanka (66), Myanmar (71), Nepal (81) and Bangladesh (84).
  • It referred to the index as “an erroneous measure of hunger”.
  • It also wrongly claimed that the Index relied on an opinion poll.

What allegations are we looking at?

As per the Ministry for Women and Child Development, the report –

  • Lowers India’s rank based on the estimates of the Proportion of Undernourished (PoU) population.
  • It elaborates that the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimate is based on the ‘Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)’ survey module conducted using the Gallup World Poll, that bears a sample size of 3,000 respondents being asked eight questions. It stated that the data represented a miniscule proportion for a country of India’s size.
  • It countered the assertions in the report pointing to India’s per capita dietary energy supply increasing year-on-year due to enhanced production of major agricultural commodities in the country over the years.

Clarifications by the GHI website

  • Explains that while FAO uses a suite of indicators on food security, including two important indicators — prevalence of undernourishment and prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity based on FIES — the GHI only uses the PoU obtained through food balance sheets based on data reported by member countries, including India.
    • A food balance sheet provides a comprehensive picture, of the pattern of a country’s food supply, during a specified reference period.
    • Lists down the source of the supply and its utilisation specific to each food category.
  • On why the GHI uses three child-specific indicators out of the four to calculate hunger for a country’s population:
    • By combining the proportion of undernourished in the population (1/3 of the GHI score) with the indicators relating to children under age five (2/3 of the GHI score), the GHI ensures that both the food supply situation of the population as a whole and the effects of inadequate nutrition within a particularly vulnerable subset of the population are captured.
    • All four indicators used in the calculation of the global hunger are recognised by the international community, including India, and used for measuring progress towards the UN SDGs.

Why the Rejection by India?

According to the Ministry, the report is not only disconnected from ground reality but also chooses to deliberately ignore the food security efforts of the Central government especially during the pandemic.

  • The Union Cabinet through the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojna (PM-GKAY), provisioned an additional five kg ration per person each month in addition to their normal quota of foodgrains as per the National Food Security Act.
    • It was recently extended to December 2022.
    • However, given the unemployment, prices of food increasing and stagnant wage-levels, people are not eating what they should eat. The pandemic-induced distress only added to an existing dimension and made it worse.
  • The wasting data cited by GHI in their 2022 report are consistent with official GoI data from the National Family Health Survey. The problem seems to be that the GHI’s prior report (2014) used incorrect, artificially low-wasting estimates for India. The result is that the GHI is reporting a rise in wasting since 2014, when in fact the actual data show a modest decline in wasting.
  • The thresholds on which the Indian and GFI hunger data are based do not necessarily represent actual hunger – they represented the weight of Indian children compared to a reference survey of children around the world.
    • The fact that many Indian children are lighter than other children of the same height do not necessarily mean that they are less well-nourished. It may even simply reflect the higher prevalence of vegetarianism in India than in other countries
  • It is important to note that the ranking cannot be used for any year-on-year comparison because countries of differing economic conditions are added for assessment each year. Thus, it is imperative to take note of the position and the indicator analysis than the comparative year-on-year rank.

Initiatives taken by the government

  • National Food Security Act, 2013: It legally entitled up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme: Launched on 2nd October, 1975, the ICDS Scheme offers a package of six services (Supplementary Nutrition, Pre-school non-formal education, Nutrition & health education, Immunization, Health check-up and Referral services) to children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana: A centrally sponsored scheme executed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, is a maternity benefit programme being implemented in all districts of the country with effect from 1st January, 2017.
  • POSHAN Abhiyan: Launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2018, it targets to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls).
  • Food Fortification: Food Fortification or Food Enrichment is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A & D to staple foods such as rice, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content.

Must Read: Global Hunger Index

Must Read: Malnutrition

Source: The Hindu


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