India was ranked 102nd on the Global Hunger Index, an index of 117 countries. It was the lowest ranked among South Asian countries (the rest being ranked between 66 and 94) and way behind the other Brics nations, the lowest of which was South Africa at 59.
After steady improvement, India’s rank slipped from 2015, when it was ranked 93. Even Pakistan, which used to be the only country in South Asia to rank below India, has pulled ahead in the 2019 ranking to 94th place.
The GHI score, which reflects data from 2014 to 2018, is based on the proportion of a country’s child population that is undernourished, share of children under five years of age who have insufficient weight for their height or whose height is not commensurate to their age, and the mortality rate of under-5 children.
“Because of its large population, India’s GHI indicator values have an outsized impact on the indicator values for the region. India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8% – the highest wasting rate of any country in this report,” stated the report on the index. The data shows that India’s poor scores were pulling down South Asia to a point where it does worse than even sub-Saharan Africa.
The report said only 9.6% of children between 6-23 months in India were fed a minimum acceptable diet (a recent Union health ministry survey had in fact put that figure at an even lower 6.4%). The GHI report praised the progress made by Bangladesh, attributing it to “robust economic growth and attention to ‘nutrition-sensitive’ sectors such as education, sanitation, and health”.
Nepal has shown the highest percentage change in its ranking since 2000 according to the report, which attributed it to increased household assets (a proxy for household wealth), increased maternal education, improved sanitation, and implementation and use of health and nutrition programs, including antenatal and neonatal care.
The GHI ranks countries on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best score (no hunger) and 100 being the worst. Values less than 10 reflect low hunger, values from 20 to 34.9 indicate serious hunger; values from 35 to 49.9 are alarming; and values of 50 or more are extremely alarming.
India’s score was 30.3, putting it in the serious hunger category. There were only four countries in the alarming hunger category and the Central African Republic in the extremely alarming hunger category. The report warned that climate change was causing alarming levels of hunger and making it more difficult to feed people in the world’s most vulnerable regions. Climate change was affecting the quality and safety of food and worsening the nutritional value of cultivated food, it stated.
The report pointed out that while there has been progress since 2000, the world has a long way to go to achieve the ‘zero hunger’ target.