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Friday, March 1, 2024

The Global Hunger Report’s Ranking Of India

According to the data published by the Sample Registration System of India, the child mortality rate witnessed a decline from 35 per thousand in 2019 to 32 per thousand in 2020. Considering this rate of decline, it is anticipated to further decrease to 24.4 by the year 2023. Given this trajectory, there seems to be no valid reason to rely on outdated data, pegging India’s child mortality rate at 31 per thousand, for estimating the hunger index in 2023. The discrepancy becomes more apparent when comparing it to the latest information, which indicates that Pakistan has an infant mortality rate of 55.8 per thousand, surpassing India. Despite this, India is ranked 111th in hunger, while Pakistan is positioned at 102nd, suggesting potential inaccuracies in other scales of the hunger index.

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By: Dipak Kurmi

The Welt Hungerhilfe, a German organization, has unveiled its ‘Hunger Index’ and the corresponding hunger rankings of countries worldwide in the 2023 Global Hunger Report. India finds itself in a concerning position once again, securing the 111th spot in the ranking that includes 125 countries this year. Comparatively, in 2022, India held the 107th position among 121 nations, and in 2021, it was ranked 101st out of 116 countries.

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In India, the Hunger Index suggests not only a prevalent and significant issue of hunger but also indicates that the performance of other nations surpasses that of India. According to the report, countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, which rely on food supplies from India, exhibit better performance in addressing hunger. This prompts natural skepticism about the accuracy of the report. To comprehend the true state of hunger and its indices in India, it becomes crucial to delve into the underlying realities.

There are four parameters utilized to gauge the Hunger Index: malnutrition, stunting in children, underweight in children, and wasting (low weight for height), along with child mortality (mortality rate in children under 5 years of age). The index, encompassing all these factors, is then calculated. According to Welt Hungerhilfe, India scores 28.7 on this index, signifying a critical level of hunger. In comparison, Pakistan holds a score of 26.6, securing the 102nd position—higher than India. Similarly, Bangladesh ranks 81st with a score of 19.0, and Sri Lanka takes the 60th position with 13.3 points.

The parameters and scales employed in formulating this Hunger Index raise questions about both the data and the methodology. The report faces skepticism not only from the Indian government but also from numerous experts. The concerns surround the reliability of the data on one hand and the methodology on the other, prompting a collective rejection of the findings.

According to Welt Hungerhilfe’s methodology, child mortality emerges as a crucial factor in determining the hunger index. Intriguingly, in the estimation of the hunger index for 2023, data from the years 2020-21 regarding child mortality rates has been considered. The report indicates India’s child mortality rate at 31 per thousand, highlighting the significant weight this parameter holds in shaping the overall index.

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According to the data published by the Sample Registration System of India, the child mortality rate witnessed a decline from 35 per thousand in 2019 to 32 per thousand in 2020. Considering this rate of decline, it is anticipated to further decrease to 24.4 by the year 2023. Given this trajectory, there seems to be no valid reason to rely on outdated data, pegging India’s child mortality rate at 31 per thousand, for estimating the hunger index in 2023. The discrepancy becomes more apparent when comparing it to the latest information, which indicates that Pakistan has an infant mortality rate of 55.8 per thousand, surpassing India. Despite this, India is ranked 111th in hunger, while Pakistan is positioned at 102nd, suggesting potential inaccuracies in other scales of the hunger index.

There are some discrepancies in the data provided by other international agencies as well. While figures published by the Indian government indicated an infant mortality rate of 28 per thousand in 2020, international agencies are reporting it at 29.848. Notably, it is neither ethical nor legitimate for any foreign or Indian agency to use data other than the official figures. However, the World Hunger Report openly asserts that the data reported by governments to the United Nations need not exclusively be used in this report. This approach raises concerns about the legitimacy of the data used. The remarkable improvements in conditions in India might not be well-received by organizations with potentially malicious intentions.

The Welt Hungerhilfe lacks factual data concerning malnutrition, given that the official household consumption survey has not been conducted since 2011. Consequently, malnutrition figures have been derived from a ‘Gallup Survey’ with a sample of 3000 people, the methodology of which is questionable, reflecting a malnutrition rate of 16.6 percent. Notably, real-time health data from the Poshan Tracker, covering over 7 crore children, reveals that only 7.7 percent of children in the country were malnourished in February 2023. Shifting the focus to the production and availability of food, India secures the 35th position in the latest global ranking (2020) among 188 countries. The continuous increase in per capita production of food grains, milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and fish affirms that India is currently producing a surplus of food compared to demand.

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) was the sole source of data on stunting and wasting in the country until recently. However, the NFHS data faced scrutiny due to its small sample size. Recognizing this limitation, the Ministry of Women and Children, Government of India, initiated a comprehensive nutrition campaign to address malnutrition issues. While NFHS drew conclusions from a relatively limited sample, the Poshan Tracker now publishes figures based on real-time data from more than 7 crore children. The wasting data consistently indicates that only 7.2% of India’s children are affected. In contrast, Welt Hungerhilfe’s Hunger Report (2023) utilizes the wasting figure from NFHS 2019-21, reporting a much higher rate of 18.7 percent.

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When it comes to stunting, experts argue against a uniform height standard for the entire country. Stunting and wasting, influenced by factors such as geography, environment, genetics, and nutrition, can vary significantly. For instance, the height of Punjabi children differs significantly from that of children in the North-East. This variability is acknowledged by the World Health Organization as well.

The Indian Government’s Nutrition Campaign (Poshan Abhiyan) is actively addressing the issue of malnutrition in the country. Recognizing and periodically assessing the outcomes of this effort, the World Health Organization has also begun utilizing data published by the Poshan Tracker. Despite objections to the methodology of the Welt Hungerhilfe report, even when adhering to the agency’s formula for calculating the hunger index, and inputting accurate data, including a child mortality rate (under 5 mortality rate) of 24.4 per thousand, wasting at 7.2 percent, and undernourishment at 7.7 percent (assuming similar nutrition outcomes for other age groups), based on Poshan Tracker data, and excluding stunting figures due to their incomparability, the hunger index estimated by the author of this article stands at 9.528. Consequently, following the Welt Hungerhilfe formula, India’s hunger index ranking isn’t 111th but rather 48th.

The Welt Hungerhilfe report’s publication has naturally led to various opposition political parties making hunger a focal issue, citing this report. In this context, it becomes evident that this agency has persistently attempted to tarnish India’s image by employing questionable data and methodology that diverge from reality. It is imperative to take strict action against all such agencies aiming to defame India. (The writer can be reached at dipaknewslive@gmail.com)

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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