Climate change, instability owing to violent conflicts, wars, and economic slowdowns continue to drive hunger in many parts of the world according to the Global Hunger Index 2019.
The progress in reducing global hunger since the year 2000 has stagnated in the last four years and the number of people who are hungry, meaning those with regular access to adequate calories, has actually risen to 822 million in 2018 from 785 million in 2015.
The annual report that measures undernourishment, child stunting, wasting and mortality says among the 117 countries ranked, 47 countries are in ‘serious’ and ‘alarming’ hunger levels and one in ‘critically alarming’.
India has improved one spot in the GHI 2019 and is ranked 102 among 117 nations and is ranked with countries from the Sub-Saharan Africa region. India’s dismal performance on hunger is directly linked to the high levels of child undernourishment.
Neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, although all in the ‘serious’ hunger category are better at feeding its citizens than India, according to this index. China has moved to a ‘low’ severity category and Sri Lanka is in the ‘moderate’ severity.
The most revealing statistic is this. When it comes to infants aged 6 months to 23 months, only 9.6 percent of them in India are fed a "minimum acceptable diet"-- this means, less than 10 percent of the infants in India are properly fed.
Because of its large population, India’s GHI indicator values have an outsized impact on the indicator values for the entire South Asia region.
India’s child wasting rate (weight for age) is extremely high at 20.8 percent, which the report states are the highest wasting rate of any country studied for the GHI report. India’s child stunting rate at 37.9 percent, is also categorized as very high when looked from the perspective of its public health significance.
The report does put an emphasis on the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat program that aims to end open defecation and has made progress in toilet construction. But it notes that even with new toilets, open defecation is still being practiced and that highly jeopardizes the population’s and children’s health in particular.
The report is published as a series of the committee on world food security meetings in the run-up to World Food Day on 16 October. It clearly articulates how the climate crisis is undermining food security in the world’s most vulnerable regions. “Since the early 1990s, the number of extreme weather-related disasters has doubled, affecting the productivity of major crops and causing food price hikes and income losses.”
The report states that globally the progress to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030, the United Nation’s second Sustainable Development Goals, has slowed. “At the current rate, approximately 45 nations will fail even to reach low hunger as defined by the GHI Severity Scale by 2030.”