The Global Hunger Index (GHI) placed India at an alarming rank of 101 out of 116 countries in 2021. India is behind its neighboring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. In the GHI severity scale, India comes under the "serious category". The Government has challenged this ranking by GHI based on the methodology used in calculating the ranks.
The Global Hunger Index 2021 –
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) calculates the malnutrition and hunger in countries across the globe. These calculations are established on four factors, viz., undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality. Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) provides data and numbers on undernourishment, whereas the Child Mortality rate is provided by the U.N. Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. The Child wasting and child stunting data is facilitated jointly by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, and other agencies.
Each country's GHI score is based on severity, from low to exceedingly alarming. The calculations are exemplified on a scale of 0 to 100, where a 0 (zero) is the best possible score indicating no hunger, and a 100 is the worst score. A score lower than 9.9 is considered low, between 10.0 to 19.9 is moderate, 20.0 to 34.9 is serious, 35.0 to 49.9 is alarming, and greater than 50.0 is extremely startling.
In 2021, GHI calculated the data available for 166 countries. With the rank of 101, out of 116, India's score is 27.5, which is deemed severe. A total of 31 countries have been put in the "serious" category of hunger along with India. India's rank was 94, 102, and 103 in 2020, 2019, and 2018 respectively. Among our neighboring countries, Sri Lanka holds the 65th rank, Nepal and Bangladesh are at the 76th rank, and Pakistan is at the 92nd rank. The only 15 countries which stand below India in the Global Hunger Index 2021 are Papua New Guinea in 102, both Afghanistan and Nigeria in 103, Congo in 105, both Sierra Leone and Mozambique in 106, Timor-Leste in 108, both Haiti and Liberia in 109, Madagascar in 111, the Democratic Republic of Congo in 112, Chad in 113, the Central African Republic in 114, Yemen in 115, and Somalia in 116.
Government's claims –
The government has challenged the poor ranking of India in the Global Hunger Index 2021 and questioned the methodology used by GHI to calculate the hierarchies. The government stated its methods as "devoid of ground reality and facts." The Government has specifically questioned the FAO report on the assessment of undernourishment in the country. This, being the only report out of four, has shown a decline in India in the respective category. The other three reports have either shown consistency or improvement in India in their specific categories. The Government has claimed that the methodology used by FAO is unscientific. They have prepared their report based on a poll consisting of four questions. The census occurred over the telephone. They also claimed that the methodology had several other drawbacks. The poll-based assessment did not even question the respondents about the food support they received from the government or other possible sources.
The Government has also questioned the performance and ranking of its neighboring countries. According to the government, it is doubtful that the conditions in other countries of this region, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Nepal have not been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. They have not faced the consequence of losing jobs and incurring losses in business. With these, the decline in income levels induced by the pandemic is also not to be ignored. In disparity to the ailments in India, these nations have been truly successful in enhancing their conditions in terms of undernourishment.
The statement given by the Ministry of Women and Child Development also states, "It is noted with surprise, from the FAO report 'The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021', the other four countries of this region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka – have not been affected at all by COVID-19 pandemic induced loss of job/ business and reduction in income levels…"
Questioning the poll-based assessment of FAO, the government expressed its concern, that the poll has increased the value of 'proportion of undernourished population' from 14.0% in the era of 2017-19 to 15.3% for the current period of 2018-2020. Whereas the 'proportion of undernourished population' in countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka has reduced to 4.3%, 3.3%, 1.3%, and 0.8% respectively in the new period of 2018-20 as compared to the term of 2017-19.
The report from FAO –
However, according to the report by FAO, the percentage of the undernourished population, in a country, is inferred in an immaculately scientific manner. It includes the habitual intake levels of dietary energy, population structure information, and the median height of the population in each category of sex and age.
India's rank in the Global Hunger Index 2021 is indeed a surprise for all. The questions regarding the situation in our neighboring countries can also not be considered baseless. The statement given by the Ministry of Women and Child Development throws light on a lot of significant possibilities and shortcomings of the report. However, nothing can be notified for sure before GHI gives any official statement about these claims.
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