The recently released Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2023 has ranked India at 111th position out of 125 countries, labeling hunger levels as ‘serious’. India has strongly rejected the report, citing ‘serious methodological issues’ with the index that present an inaccurate picture.
The GHI is published annually by Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organization Welt Hunger Hilfe. It tracks hunger levels by scoring four indicators – undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.
Flawed Indicators Lead to Skewed Ranking
In a statement, the Women and Child Development Ministry said three of the four indicators are related to health of children and cannot represent the entire population. The fourth indicator on proportion of undernourished people is based on a small sample survey of only 3000 people.
The ministry argued that the GHI does not accurately capture the various efforts and programs implemented by the government to address malnutrition. The Poshan Tracker application developed by the ministry is providing robust data on key nutrition indicators.
Since April 2023, measurements of children under 5 years on Poshan Tracker has increased consistently, showing wasting below 7.2% compared to 18.7% used in GHI 2023. The ministry said stunting and wasting depends on factors like sanitation, environment etc. apart from hunger.
India has Highest Child Wasting Rate: GHI 2023
According to the GHI report, India has the highest child wasting rate in the world at 18.7%. Wasting refers to low weight for height in children reflecting acute undernutrition.
The report also stated that India’s child mortality rate stands at 3.3% and undernourishment rate is 16.3%. For women between 15-49 years, the prevalence of anemia is 57.2%.
South Asia and Africa South of Sahara face the highest hunger levels as per the index. India’s neighbors – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka have fared better in hunger parameters.
Global Hunger Remains Unchanged Since 2015
The GHI report highlighted that hunger has remained unchanged globally since 2015. The world GHI score has declined by less than one point from 19.1 in 2015 to 18.3 in 2023.
The number of undernourished people has increased from 572 million to 735 million since 2017, mainly due to the effects of the pandemic, climate change, conflicts and economic shocks.
While methodological issues in the GHI formula have been highlighted, India does face challenges in tackling hunger and malnutrition. Targeted nutrition programs, increased budgetary allocation and monitoring on-ground implementation will be key.
The Poshan Tracker provides granular real-time data that can be used by policymakers. Leveraging technology and channels like Anganwadi centers will support progress towards zero hunger.