Hunger Issues or Statistical Exaggeration!

Hunger | Statistical | 07th November 2021 | Virtual Wire


Picture -Borgen Magazine

Recently GHI 2021 report is out and India bagged 101st rank. India started from 83rd position out of 113 countries in 2000, attained 55th rank out of 120 countries in 2014, and got 101st position out of 116 in 2021 in GHI rankings.

The trend of India’s ranking among the countries for whom reliable data is available is somewhat heart-breaking as well as an issue of concern. Why is India trailing? Why do the second-largest producer of food products in the world still stand on such a lower pedestal of an index? Does India have hunger issues or does the ranking just indicate statistical exaggeration? There are two reasons why India is still a worse performer in the fields of food provision and hence lags behind the global goal of Zero Hunger till 2030.

India’s performance for the indicators which GHI uses isn’t a spectacular one.

GHI has four components: Undernourishment, wasting, stunting, and mortality. The above graph shows that even though mortality rate and stunting have shown a significant downfall over two decades but undernourishment and wasting didn’t show any difference in the values it started in 2000 to 2021. Thus, we can conclude that even though GHI isn’t changing its course of calculation and the indicators India’s performance is falling from being 83rd in 2000 to 101st in 2021.

GHI calculation, too, has some inherent problems in it. It’s more of a child-centric index and is confined to children under 5 years of age. The first component,i.e. Undernourishment considers calorie intake which can be low due to various factors such as deficiency, reduced physical activity, lack of social infrastructure, physical disease environment, etc. Also, the use of uniform calorie intake disregarding all the regional imbalances leads to underestimation or overestimation of the prevalence of calorie deficiency in some states. Wasting (low weight for height) prevalence in India is around 17.3% which is the highest in the world and it has remained at this level throughout the two decades of the 21st century.

Picture -DNA India

Lack of nutritional intake, as well as sudden exposure to an infectious atmosphere, can result in wasting, which makes it a bit less reliable component as it’s unstable. Several episodes of wasting or prolonged exposure to wasting conditions often develop themselves into stunting. Stunting (low height for age) has declined from around 54% in 1998-2002 to 34.7% in 2016-2020. Moreover, since wasting and stunting are closely related India can work on decreasing both of them simultaneously by paying more attention to reducing wasting.

The novel coronavirus is expected to deeply alter the levels of undernourishment and child wasting in India. Despite India’s performance being spectacular in the Mortality field and a close link between it and undernourishment, we haven’t seen any improvement in the prevalence of undernourishment. This highlights the fact that even though India isn’t able to ensure better nutritional security it has so far been able to save many lives thanks to the availability of and access to better health facilities.

Picture -Hindustan Times

Whether India should disregard GHI or focus on the valuable insights it provides is more of a political issue, but one should keep in mind that even though GHI has some inherent problems in it we can’t say that it is depicting a false image of India. Instead, it’s portraying half image of India’s hunger conditions. In conclusion, we can say that GHI isn’t an ideal index to describe the hunger aspect but the snapshot it gives is a closer view of the reality.

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