Table of Contents
THE CONTEXT: The Global Hunger Index, 2023 has ranked India 117th out of 125 countries. But the Government has objected to the ranking citing flawed methodology. This article explains about the Global Hunger Index and the issue of hunger and malnutrition in India from the UPSC perspective.
WHAT IS GLOBAL HUNGER INDEX?
- The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels, reflecting multiple dimensions of hunger over time.
- The GHI is intended to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger, provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions. It calls for attention to those areas of the world where hunger levels are highest and where the need for additional efforts to eliminate hunger is greatest.
- It is calculated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) based in Washington, D.C. It is Jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe annually.
- Based on the values of four indicators, a GHI score is calculated on a 100 point scale reflecting the severity of the hunger, where 0 is the best possible score(no hunger) and 100 is the worst.
THE GHI CALCULATION METHODOLOGY:
AN OVERVIEW OF INDIA’S RANK
1. DECLINING TREND
India’s rank in the Global Hunger Index has consistently worsened in the last 10 years, and the country’s rank has become quite poor since 2016.
|No. of Countries Analysed
2. Nutrition assessment
- Undernourishment: The undernourishment rate in India is 16.6%.
- Under-five mortality: India’s under-five mortality rate is 3.1%.
- Prevalence of anaemia: The prevalence of anaemia in women between the ages of 15-24 stood at 58.1%. More than 50% of women and adolescents are anaemic in the country, one of the highest across the world.
- Child-wasting: As per the index, India also has the highest child-wasting rate in the world at 18.7%, reflecting acute undernutrition.
- Child stunting: It has declined from 38.7% to 35.5% between 2014 and 2023.
DEFINITION OF THE KEY TERMS:
Hunger: It is usually understood to refer to the distress associated with a lack of sufficient calories. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines food deprivation, or undernourishment, as the habitual consumption of too few calories to provide the minimum dietary energy an individual requires to live a healthy and productive life, given that person’s sex, age, stature, and physical activity level.
Undernutrition: It goes beyond calories and signifies deficiencies in any or all of the following: energy, protein, and/ or essential vitamins and minerals. Undernutrition is the result of inadequate intake of food in terms of either quantity or quality, poor utilization of nutrients due to infections or other illnesses, or a combination of these immediate causes.
Malnutrition: It refers more broadly to both undernutrition (problems caused by deficiencies) and overnutrition (problems caused by unbalanced diets that involve consuming too many calories in relation to requirements, with or without low intake of micronutrient-rich foods).
Stunting: It is defined as low height-for-age. It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poverty, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness and/or inappropriate feeding and care in early life.
Wasting: It is defined as low weight-for-height. It often indicates recent and severe weight loss, although it can also persist for a long time.It usually occurs when a person has not had food of adequate quality and quantity and/or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses.
3. India’s comparison with Neighboring countries
India fares worse (rank lower) than South Asian countries- Sri Lanka (60), Nepal (69), Bangladesh (81), and Pakistan (102).
WHAT IS THE RESPONSE OF GOVERNMENT OF INDIA VIS A VIS THE INDEX
FAILS TO REPRESENT REALITY
- Government said in a statement that the Global Hunger Index is an inaccurate indicator of “hunger” and fails to accurately represent India’s situation.
- The report is disconnected from ground reality and is an attempt to taint India’s image, but India is a nation known for its agricultural prowess and food surplus status.
ISSUES IN METHODOLOGY
- The Index suffers from serious methodological issues. Three out of the four indicators used for calculation of the index are related to the health of children and cannot be representative of the entire population.
- The fourth and most important indicator ‘Proportion of Undernourished (PoU) population’ is based on an opinion poll conducted on a very small sample size.
IGNORES GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES
- It deliberately ignores the food security efforts of the Central government, especially during the pandemic, as Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojna (PM-GKAY), which provisioned an additional five kg ration per person each month in addition to the National Food Security Act.
- Under Mission Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 (Mission Poshan 2.0), India has prioritised a number of crucial initiatives to address the problem of malnutrition.
- Poshan Tracker’ application was launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development acted as a vital governance tool in the field of nutrition by a number of significant international organisations, including UNICEF, WHO, and the World Bank.
- There are issues of limited sample size and reliance on a constrained set of questions introduce biases that fail to capture the intricate nuances of India’s food situation.
- For example, the undernourishment data, a cornerstone of the index, relies on a Gallup World Poll with a mere 3,000 respondents.
- Household consumption surveys, which have not been conducted since 2011, are a primary source of data.
ISSUES IN MINDSET
- Though, it is evident that there are methodological errors and misinterpretations of the underlying data.
- Additionally, there is a prevailing mind-set issue rooted in stereotypes, where India is often perceived as a nation plagued by widespread child starvation.
ANALYSIS OF THE CLAIM OF THE GOI ON GHI: WHETHER IT IS CORRECT?
- Indian government has called the Global Hunger Index as a “flawed measure of hunger that doesn’t reflect India’s true position’’.
- For example, It said that data recorded on its Poshan Tracker portal showed child wasting prevalence of 7.2% among a total of 7.24 crore under-five-year-olds whose data was captured, whereas the GHI used a value of 18.7% for child wasting.
- Here, GHI argues that it uses the same data sources for all countries to calculate the respective country scores. This ensures that all the rates used have been produced using comparable methodologies.
- The other objection the government alleged that the use of a telephone-based opinion poll to calculate undernourishment, one of the indicators used in GHI.
- The GHI has maintained that it doesn’t use the poll, but relies on data from India’s Food Balance Sheet to calculate undernourishment.
- Government argues that the three out of the four indicators used for calculation of the index are related to the health of children and cannot be representative of the entire population. And the fourth indicator ‘Proportion of Undernourished (PoU) population’ is based on an opinion poll on narrow size of population of 3000.
- The Indian government also cast doubts over using stunting and wasting as two indicators for the GHI report preparation. The government says ‘hunger’ may cause stunting and wasting, but they could also be a result of factors like sanitation, genetics, utilisation of food intake etc. Therefore, it raised questions over using ‘hunger’ as something it termed as ‘outcome’ for stunting and wasting, for the GHI scores.
- There may be issues with the index, but to dismiss the lower ranking as completely false is not the right approach. Especially when other reports have pointed out the challenges of hunger in the country, the GoI needs to be more receptive to the findings of the report while the agency publishing GHI needs to address the methodological concerns if any.
GLOBAL INDICES FOR REFORMS AND GROWTH
- The Government of India has decided to leverage select Global Indices to drive reforms and growth across the country.
- The Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office (DMEO), NITI Aayog has been designated as the knowledge partner for this exercise to facilitate monitoring progress on these Indices across States/UTs through a single dashboard.
- These Indices are divided across four categories – Industry, Development, Economy and Governance.
- It is being utilized as a means of driving India’s performance across important social, economic and development parameters tracked globally and at the indigenous level.
- It also aims to serve as a means of improving citizen service delivery through robust data for systemic reforms in the policies to improve the standard and ease of living, creating a conducive ecosystem for investment, and drive sustainable development.
THE STATUS OF HUNGER IN INDIA: THE COMPLETE PICTURE
1. THE NATIONAL FAMILY HEALTH SURVEY (NFHS-5): The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) has shown improvement in stunting and waste and a significant reduction in Under-five Mortality Rate. As per the recent report of NFHS-5 (2019-21), the nutrition indicators for children under 5 years have improved as compared with NFHS-4 (2015-16). Stunting has reduced from 38.4% to 35.5%, Wasting has reduced from 21.0% to 19.3% and Underweight prevalence has reduced from 35.8% to 32.1%.
2. THE STATE OF FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION IN THE WORLD (SOFI) REPORT 2023:
- It is published jointly by five UN organisations i.e the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.
- It also presents worrisome estimates of widespread and worsening food insecurity in India.
- According to the SOFI report, India has the lowest cost of a healthy diet among BRICS nations and its neighbours. For instance, in India, a healthy diet costs 3.066 PPP dollars per person per day, the lowest among the countries considered.
- While food prices remain relatively low in India, a healthy diet is unaffordable to nearly three-fourth of the people given their low incomes. For instance, in India, 74% were not able to afford a healthy diet, the fourth highest share among the nations considered.
- Only countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina-Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau had a higher share of their respective populations than India which were not able to afford a healthy diet.
- The SOFI-2023 report also said 233.9 million (24 crore) people in India are ‘undernourished’.
- (GNR 2021)
THE REASONS BEHIND INDIA’S PERSISTENT PROBLEM OF HUNGER
- With increasing number of population in India, it has become hard to fulfill the requirements of each section of the society.
- Despite, a major part of the Indian population is engaged in agricultural activities, the availability of food remains a challenge due to this increasing population of the country.
- There is a persistent issue of climate change with erratic rainfall and increasing frequency of extreme events that have impacted agricultural activities everywhere, creating unfavourable conditions for food production.
- Climate variability affecting rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods, are among the key drivers behind the rise in hunger, together with conflict and economic slowdowns.
INEFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION POLICIES
- There is a poor implementation of the existing schemes and policies in India. For example, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and the National Health Mission (NHM) have not achieved adequate coverage.
- Apart from that, food wastage is also an emerging challenge that undermines the efforts to end hunger and malnutrition. According to the FAO, the global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes of primary product equivalents.
LACK OF AWARENESS
- There is a lack of awareness among the population of India about the existing programmes of the government.
- There is also issue of lack of education and training on new techniques, technologies and agricultural products which has led to less agriculture production. Traditional farming methods are slightly more time-consuming and delay the production of food grains, etc.
- The change from multi to mono cropping systems limits the diversity of agricultural products. Inclination towards cash crops and changing food habits result in malnutrition, undernutrition and even micro-nutrient deficiencies.
- Hunger and the related undernutrition is the result of various associated factors ranging from water, sanitation, access to food items.
- A person’s ‘nutritional quotient’ is also dependent on demographic factors like gender, caste, age, etc.
STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA TO FIGHT HUNGER
NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT, 2013
- The National Food Security Act of 2013 aims to provide for food and nutritional security in the human life cycle approach by ensuring access to adequate quantities of quality food at affordable prices for people to live a life with dignity.
- The Act provides for coverage of up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population.
- The eligible persons will be entitled to receive 5 Kgs of foodgrains per person per month at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains.
INTEGRATED CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERVICES (ICDS) SCHEME
- It provides for supplementary nutrition, immunization and pre-school education to the children is a popular flagship programme of the government.
- It was launched in 1975, it is one of the world’s largest programmes providing for an integrated package of services for the holistic development of the child.
- ICDS is a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by state governments and union territories. The scheme is universal, covering all the districts of the country.
- The Scheme has been renamed as Anganwadi Services. The services are now offered as part of the Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 ( Poshan 2.0)
PRADHAN MANTRI MATRU VANDANA YOJANA
- Under-nutrition continues to adversely affect the majority of women in India. In India, every third woman is undernourished, and every second woman is anaemic.
- Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country.
- It is a Centrally Sponsored DBT scheme that provides a cash incentive of ₹ 5000/- to Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers of 19 years of age or above for the first live birth.
- The incentive is paid in three installments upon fulfilling certain health and nutrition conditions.
INTEGRATED NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT PROGRAMME SAKSHAM ANGANWADI AND POSHAN 2.0
- It aims to address the problems of malnutrition in children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.
- It also seeks to develop and promote practises that foster health, wellness, and immunity through a strategic shift in nutrition content and delivery and the development of a converging eco-system.
- Poshan Tracker: The ‘Poshan Tracker’ ICT application was created and implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development as a crucial governance tool. The Poshan Tracker has included WHO’s expanded tables to dynamically determine stunting, wasting, underweight, and obesity status based on a child’s height, weight, gender, and age.
EAT RIGHT INDIA MOVEMENT
- It is an outreach activity organized by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for citizens to nudge them towards eating right.
- Eat Right India adopts an integrative or ‘whole of the government’ approach since the movement brings together food-related mandates of the agriculture, health, environment and other ministries.
- It also adopts a ‘whole of society’ approach, bringing all stakeholders together on a common platform.
- Eat Right India is aligned to the National Health Policy 2017 with its focus on preventive and promotive healthcare and flagship programmes like Ayushman Bharat, POSHAN Abhiyaan, Anemia Mukt Bharat and Swacch Bharat Mission.
LESSONS FROM INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCES: CASE STUDY
FOME ZERO: HOW BRAZIL IS TACKLING HUNGER AND FOOD INSECURITY
About Fome Zero: Hunger is a multi-sectoral problem requiring an integrated, cross-government response. The Fome Zero programme recognises that poverty reduction, food security, and support for small-scale agriculture are intimately connected. Its 50 interlinked initiatives are intended both to increase access to food for the poorest people (through cash transfers, livelihoods support, and targeted free meals), and to support food production from small-scale and family farmers.
Fome Zero has three main policy pillars:
1. The Bolsa Família is the world’s largest conditional cash transfer programme. It provides direct income, under certain conditions, to 12.7 million families (nearly 50 million people) facing poverty and deprivation (World Bank 2010). Through linking and integration with other social programmes, access to financial benefits is based on access to basic rights such as health, education, and food in order to support poverty reduction more effectively.
2. The school meal programme provides 47 million free school meals every day.
3. The strengthening of family agriculture pillar: It is intended to strengthen and stimulate small-scale and family-based agriculture in order to increase the quality and quantity of the food supply, and to support increased incomes for rural households. This programme includes subsidized credit, training and technical assistance, and insurance for small-scale and family farmers. The Family Agriculture Food Procurement Programme aims to ensure a stable market price for products from small-scale farmers, for example by buying local food products for government feeding programmes or for local food banks.
THE WAY FORWARD
- Holistic Approach: There is a need of adoption of holistic approach to address the challenge of food security. It can be done by looking at diverse issues from a common lens such as inequality, food diversity, indigenous rights, and environmental justice and sustainable green economy.
- Addressing loopholes in food security management: Food management in India is one of the main reasons for food insecurity. It can be done by ensuring transparency in food stock holdings by using technological advancements as using IT to improve communication channels with farmers. It can help them to get a better deal for their produce while improving storage houses with the latest technology is equally important to deal with natural disasters.
- Improvement in data collection: There is an urgent need to critically re-evaluate the methods and data sources of food security assessment. It can be done with improved and real-time data from the Indian Government, coupled with closer coordination with international organizations, particularly the FAO and the WHO. This collaborative effort is essential to ensure a more accurate representation of India’s food security situation and to effectively combat hunger and malnutrition.
- Political will and government initiatives: There is a need of significant political will and government action to transform its food and nutrition landscape. The existing government initiatives and schemes should be implemented carefully and adequately so that no one is left behind.
- Agricultural investment: For managing food security, there is a need to invest in agricultural research and development to develop high-yield and climate-resilient crop varieties. It can be done by promoting sustainable farming practices, including organic farming and precision agriculture and improved access to modern farming technologies, such as improved seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation systems.
THE CONCLUSION: It may be true that there are issues in methodology of Global Hunger Index, showing such poor state of hunger in India. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that while significant progress has been made, there are still issues that persist in ensuring food security in India. The challenge lies in identifying these specific areas and taking immediate steps to combat hunger and malnutrition in all its forms.
Q.1 India’s ranking in recently published Global Hunger Index, 2023 underscores the persistent challenges in addressing hunger and undernutrition. Comment.
Q.2 The government has rejected the Global Hunger Index, 2023, claiming it was an effort to ‘taint’ India and questioned its methodology. In this respect, compare the findings of the index with other national and international reports. Also highlight the status of food security measures taken by the government to address the problem of hunger.Spread the Word