India was ranked 102 in the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI), much below its neighbours Pakistan (94), Bangladesh (88), Sri Lanka (66), Nepal (73) and China (25).
The GHI, which was released on Tuesday, noted that “India suffers from a level of hunger that is serious”.
The country has gained a position compared to previous year (103). But it is hardly a reason for consolation, as, in 2017, India was placed 100th.
Jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, the GHI ranks countries based on four key indicators—undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. Child wasting refers to share of children under the age of five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition. “Wasting is most prevalent in Yemen, Djibouti, and India,” according to the GHI.
Because of its large population, India’s GHI indicator values have an outsized impact on the indicator values for the region, the report noted. "India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 per cent—the highest wasting rate of any country in this report for which data or estimates were available.”
According to the report, India's child stunting rate, 37.9 per cent, is also categorised as very high in terms of its public health significance. “In India, just 9.6 per cent of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet. As of 2015–2016, 90 per cent of Indian households used an improved drinking water source while 39 per cent of households had no sanitation facilities (IIPS and ICF 2017),” said the report.
The GHI acknowledged Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Clean India' campaign and his attempts to end open defecation, but noted that “even with new latrine construction, however, open defecation is still practiced”. It pointed out that the situation jeopardises the health of people, especially the children, as “their ability to absorb nutrients is compromised”.
It is “designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels” with the intention of creating awareness and understanding about the "struggle against hunger, provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions, and call attention to those areas of the world where hunger levels are highest and where the need for additional efforts to eliminate hunger is greatest," according to the GHI website.
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The result, which comes days ahead of the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, might cause some embarrassment for the ruling BJP.
Welthungerhilfe is a not-for-profit group and Concern Worldwide works towards improving lives of poor people.