India has slipped by four positions to 111 out of 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index

Debjit Mukherjee: India has slipped by four positions to 111 out of 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2023 behind neighbours Pakistan (102), Bangladesh (81), Nepal (69) and Sri Lanka (60). Only Afghanistan, Haiti and 12 sub-Saharan countries performed worse than India.

“With a score of 28.7 in the 2023 Global Hunger Index, India has a level of hunger that is serious,” the WHI report, prepared by Irish NGO Concern Worldwide and German NGO Welt Hunger Hilfe, reads.

Though India fared better than South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara, which recorded a score of 27 each, the country’s child wasting rate is highest globally at 18.7%, signalling acute undernutrition. India’s undernourishment rate is at 16.6% while its under-five mortality rate 3.1%.

India’s ranking improved from 38.4 in 2000 to 35.5 in 2008 and 29.2 in 2015, but the country advanced on the GHI by only 0.5 points in the last eight years.

As per GHI, its “scores are based on the values of four component indicators: undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality.

“Based on the values of the four indicators, a GHI score is calculated on a 100-point scale reflecting the severity of hunger, where 0 is the best possible score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst. Each country’s GHI score is classified by severity, from low to extremely alarming.”

However, the government termed the WHI methodology “erroneous and having malafide intent” and said that it “suffers from serious methodological issues”.

Rejecting the index, the ministry of women and child development termed it flawed.

“The index is an erroneous measure of hunger and 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 ministry said in a statement.

“The fourth and most important indicator, ‘Proportion of Undernourished (PoU) population’, is based on an opinion poll conducted on a very small sample size of 3,000,” it added.

Since three of the four indicators are related to the health of children, it cannot be representative of the entire population, the ministry argued.

Since April, the measurement data of children under five years uploaded on the Poshan Tracker app, a real-time monitoring tool, has consistently increased from 6.34 crore in April to 7.24 crore in September 2023, the ministry further said.

“The percentage of child wasting, as seen on the Poshan Tracker, has been consistently below 7.2%, month-on-month, as compared to the value of 18.7% used for child wasting in the Global Hunger Index 2023.”

Besides, stunting and wasting are the outcome of complex interactions of various other factors like sanitation, genetics, environment and utilisation of food intake apart from hunger, which is taken as the causative/outcome factor for stunting and wasting in the GHI, the government contended.

Besides, there is hardly any evidence that child mortality is an outcome of hunger, it said.

The government claimed to have prioritised several key activities to address malnutrition under Mission Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 (Mission Poshan 2.0).

Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), around 1,118 lakh tonnes of food grains had been allocated in 28 months for nearly 80 crore beneficiaries, the government claimed.