Hydra-headed problem

By Santosh Kumar Mohapatra

Hunger has remained a persistent problem around the world and particularly in India, as is indicated by the country’s poor showing in global studies of the problem

nding hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030” is a Sustainable Development Goal of the UN. But State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report and Global Hunger Index Report-2018 reveal that governments around the world, including India, have not made a dent in eliminating hunger as expected. SOFI is an annual flagship report prepared jointly by the FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO to track progress in ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, and to provide in-depth analysis of key challenges in achieving the goal.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) report, in turn, measures and tracks hunger globally. GHI report-2018, based on data from 2013-2017, has four parameters for evaluation. The first is undernourishment, which is the share of population that is undernourished and reflects insufficient caloric intake. The next three indicators use data for children under 5: Child wasting (low weight for height), reflecting acute undernutrition; child stunting (low height for age), reflecting chronic undernutrition; and child mortality under 5.

Despite enormous creation of wealth and scientific progress in the world, one in nine people regularly goes to bed hungry, according to SOFI 2018. The number of people facing chronic food deprivation in the world rose for the third consecutive year to 821 million in 2017 from 804 million in 2016 returning to decade-ago levels.


The number of people facing chronic food deprivation in the world rose for the third consecutive year to 821 million in 2017 from 804 million in 2016 returning to decade-ago levels.

GHI-2018 shows that at the pace of hunger reduction observed since 2000, about 50 countries will fail to reach low hunger levels by 2030 as defined by the GHI Severity Scale. At present, 79 countries have failed to reach that designation.

In India, alleviating poverty and hunger has remained a chimera although the country is the world’s fastest developing economy. India is home to 195.9 million undernourished people, that is, about 24 per cent of the world’s hungry. Although the proportion of undernourished has declined significantly from 18.2 per cent in 2000 to 14.8 per cent in 2018, it is still higher than the global average of 10.9 per cent.

Evidence suggests that severe food insecurity has been increasing in all sub-regions and most regions of Africa and in all sub-regions of South America. The decrease in undernourishment in Asia is also slowing significantly. Multiple forms of malnutrition are evident across countries. Analyses on wasting among children under 5 reveal that inequities persist — the poorest households have 1.4 times higher prevalence of wasting than rich households globally; the inequality is nearly twice as high in some sub-regions.

The SOFI report has termed as “shameful” the fact that one in three women of reproductive age globally were affected by anaemia, with significant health and development consequences for both women and their children. Anaemia among women of reproductive age went up from 30.3 per cent in 2012 to 32.8 per cent in 2016 with no region showing a decline. In India, 51.4 per cent women of reproductive age suffer from anaemia.

India has slipped three notches from last year and ranked at 103 out of 119 countries in GHI-2018 and below many neighbouring countries, including China (25), Nepal (72), Myanmar (68), Sri Lanka (67) and Bangladesh (86) and ahead of Pakistan, which is ranked 106. India had also slipped three notches to 100 in GHI-2017, which was worse compared with GHI-2000 when India was ranked at 83 among 115 countries. In 2016, India was ranked at 97 among 118 countries, while 80th among 104 countries in 2015. India has been relegated to the regressive league of 45 countries with hunger levels categorised as “serious”.

However, between 2000 and 2018, child mortality rate has halved from 9.2 per cent to 4.3 per cent, while child stunting has dropped from 54.2 per cent to 38.4 per cent over the same period. However, the prevalence of child wasting has actually worsened compared with previous reference years. It stood at 17.1 per cent in 2000, and increased to 20 per cent in 2005 and further to 21 per cent in 2018. At least one in five Indian children under 5 is wasted, reflecting acute undernutrition.

Undernutrition and obesity coexist in many countries, and can even be seen side by side in the same household. Poor access to nutritious food owing to its higher cost, stress of living with food insecurity, and physiological adaptations to food deprivation help explain why food-insecure families may have a higher risk of overweight and obesity.

SOFI 2018 reveals new challenges on the road to Zero Hunger, while setting out urgent actions needed to achieve the goal by 2030. Persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions, adverse climate events in many regions of the world and economic slowdowns have affected more peaceful regions and worsened food security. Conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries. Violent conflicts also led to the forced displacement of a record high 68.5 million in 2017. Economic losses attributed to disasters were estimated at over $300 billion in 2017.

The goal of achieving zero hunger will not be reached without increased efforts. To tackle rise in hunger and food insecurity as well as the concomitant problem of malnutrition, governments should not only make “food for all” a priority, but also develop and implement policies and programmes to deliver nutrition to the people at greatest risk. Food systems should be revamped to enable more children and families to have access nutritious, affordable and sustainable diets.

Effort should be made to build resilience against the potential impact of climate-related shocks and emergencies for those living in areas most susceptible to climate extremes. Arable lands should not be utilised for any purpose other than cultivation as it is limited. Agricultural inputs should be subsidised and farmers’ interest should be protected. The rich should be encouraged not to waste food which can feed many poor people if preserved.

Source: HERE. NOW

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