India at 107 ranks below neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka (64), Nepal (81), Bangladesh (84) and Pakistan (99).
Hunger is serious in South Asia, according to the recent 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI). The report adds, “South Asia has the highest child stunting rate and by far the highest child wasting rate of any world region.”
India, with a GHI value of 29.1 falls under the category reflecting serious hunger levels with 107th rank out of 121 countries. India’s performance indicates a worsening level of hunger as it ranked much below its South Asian neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka (64), Nepal (81), Bangladesh (84) and Pakistan (99). Out of 121 countries, 49 reflect low hunger, 36 countries reflect moderate hunger, 35 countries reflect serious hunger, 9 countries fall under the alarming hunger category and there is no country in the extremely alarming category.
The GHI for 121 countries were calculated and based on the severity of the hunger scale. It categorised and ranked the countries on a 100-point scale: low hunger (values below 10), moderate hunger (values from 10 to 19.9), serious hunger (values from 20 to 34.9), alarming (values from 35 to 49.9) and extremely alarming (values 50 or above).
As in the previous year, the Government of India considers the GHI as unacceptable and with poor research ethics where data collection for a billion-plus country (1.4 billion population in 2022) was done on a minuscule sample size of 3,000 respondents.
According to the government of India, “the index is an erroneous measure of hunger and suffers serious methodological issues. Three out of the four indicators used for calculation of the index are related to health of children and cannot be representative of the entire population. The fourth and most important indicator estimate of the Proportion of Undernourished (PoU) population is based on an opinion poll conducted on a very small sample size of 3000.”
Furthermore, the government has taken the matter to FAO for using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) survey data, which is an “opinion poll” based on eight questions with a minuscule sample size of 3,000 respondents. The government has even raised its concern over the questionnaire and considered it as far from the facts and ground realities.
Also, the three indicators primarily indicated the “children viz. stunting, wasting and under-5 mortality”. According to the government analysis, “These indicators are outcomes of complex interaction of various other factors like drinking water, sanitation, genetics, environment and utilisation of food intake apart from hunger, which is a causative factor for stunting and wasting in the GHI. Calculating hunger based on mainly indicators relating to health indicators of children is neither scientific nor rational.”
India has the world’s largest population in the under-5 age group with 115,307,402 children, much higher than that of China, the world’s most populous country, where the population in the under-5 age group is 74,789,700 children, according to the UN World Population Prospect 2021. It requires a long-term, larger-scale and holistic approach to deal with child health indicators as it is deeply linked with deepened gender gap and women’s health and nutrition.