Friday May 24, 2024

India falls to 102 in hunger index, eight ranks below Pakistan

By Javad M Goraya
October 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: India drops further down in the latest ranking of Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019 for failure to provide minimum healthy and safe living conditions to its people. India ranks at 102 out of 117 countries in GHI 2019, whereas Pakistan stands at number 94.

India was at number 103 out of 119 countries last year, whereas Pakistan was at number 106 in 2018. Because of the low nutrition levels in India and its size, South Asia is the worst performing region in the GHI 2019. South Asia ranks worse than even African region.

As per latest GHI, India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 percent -- the highest for any country in the 2019 Index. India’s child stunting rate at 38 percent percent is also categorised as very high in terms of public health significance. In India, just 9.6 percent of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet. Between 2015-16, 39 percent of households had no sanitation facilities and 90 percent of Indian households used an improved drinking water source.

The latest hunger data exposes the contradictions and income inequality in Indian society. On one hand, it has millions of citizens who are malnourished and on the other hand, India’s top 1 percent of population has 73 percent of the country’s wealth as per UK’s Oxfam study. In a public rally this week, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called Modi as the “loudspeaker of rich businessman”.

Modi, despite miserable public welfare record summarised in GHI 2019 has received highest national awards from UAE, Russia, Bahrain this year and also an award from Bill Gates Foundation.

GHI is issued since 2000 by two leading international NGOs, Germany-based “Welthungerhilfe” and Ireland based “Concern Worldwide”. Both NGOs are working in anti-poverty and anti-hunger sectors for over 50 years and are affiliated with major UN and other Global organisations. In the GHI report, there is serious concern expressed on the increase in number of hungry people in the world from 785 million in 2015 to 822 million in 2018. The index report also estimates that 45 countries will miss the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030.

The GHI categorises countries on basis of four benchmarks i.e. child wasting (share of children under age of five who are wasted that is, who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute malnutrition), child mortality (mortality rate of children under the age of five), undernourishment (insufficient calorie intake of population) and child stunting (the share of children under the age of five who are stunted i.e. who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic under-nutrition).

The world has made progress in hunger reduction from a high score of nearly 30 in 2000 to 20 at present as per the benchmarks set in GHI. South Asia has the highest score of 29.3 in the index compared to other five regions which are analysed mainly due to India’s poor show. The child stunting rate for South Asia is 37.6 percent, and the child wasting rate is 17.5 percent; both are the highest levels for any region in GHI 2019.

Among other countries in the region, Afghanistan ranks 108 out 117 countries and Bangladesh ranks at 88, while Sri Lanka is at Number 66. The war-ravaged Yemen ranks second last in the index at 116. Wars, climate change, internal strife, income inequality are common ailments in countries with low rankings.

Pakistan has a long way to go to achieve better rankings in the GHI as well. In the latest index, 20 percent of Pakistan’s population is categorised as undernourished, the prevalence of child wasting under five years is 7 percent, 37 percent children under five suffer from stunting and mortality rate of children under five years is 7 percent. In other countries in the region, Afghanistan has an alarming ratio of 43 percent for stunting in children under five.

The latest GHI should be an eye opener and a wakeup call for decision makers in South Asia especially India and Pakistan. The World Bank has cut its growth forecast for 2019 and there has been a huge exodus of foreign funds from Indian stock market.