Tackling hunger in India

By Gudipati Rajendera Kumar

This year’s report of Global Hunger Index shows that India has slipped three positions from last year — it ties with Djibouti and war-ravaged Rwanda for the 100th rank among 119 nations.

The report does mention that India has scaled up its Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme and the National Health Mission but also notes that they are yet to achieve adequate coverage.

What is GHI?

  • Published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Concern Worldwide, an Irish aid agency, and Welthungerhilfe, a German private aid organisation, the Global Hunger Index tracks hunger worldwide.
  • The GHI score is a multidimensional index composed of four indicators—proportion of undernourished in the population, prevalence of child mortality, child stunting, and child wasting.
  • On the severity scale, a GHI score of less than 10 means “low” prevalence of hunger while a score of more than 50 implies an “extremely alarming” situation.
  • The GHI is calculated by taking into account four key parameters:
    S    shares of undernourished population,
    S    wasted and stunted children aged under 5, and
    S    infant mortality rate of the same age group.
  • Of the 131 countries studied, data was available for 118 countries.This year, for the first time, two measures of child hunger -wasting and stunting -have been used to give a more complete picture. Wasting refers to low weight in relation to a child’s height, reflecting acute undernutrition. Stunting refers to the deficiency in height in relation to age, reflecting chronic undernutrition.
Calculation of GHI:

The Index ranks countries on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best score (no hunger) and 100 being the worst.

  •  Values less than 10.0 reflect low hunger, values from 10.0 to 19.9 reflect moderate hunger, values from 20.0 to 34.9 indicate serious hunger, values from 35.0 to 49.9 reflect alarming hunger, and values of 50.0 or more reflect extremely alarming hunger levels.[18]
  • The GHI combines 4 component indicators
    1) The proportion of the undernourished as a percentage of the population 2) The proportion of children under the age of five suffering from wasting 3) The proportion of children under the age of five suffering from stunting; 4) The mortality rate of children under the age of five.[GHI2015 1]
  • The data and projections used for the 2015 GHI are for the period from 2010 and 2016—the most recent available data for the four components of the GHI.
  • The data on the proportion of undernourished come from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and include authors’ estimates.
  •  Data on child wasting and stunting are collected fromUNICEF, theWorld Health Organization, the World Bank,WHO,MEASURE DHS, the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, and also include the authors? own estimates.
  • Data on child mortality are from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.
  • What is IFPRI?
    The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. FPRI’s vision is a world free of hunger and malnutrition.
  • Its mission is to provide research-based policy solutions that sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition.

What are the major objectives of IFPRI?

  • Research at IFPRI focuses on six strategic areas:
    Ensuring Sustainable Food Production
  • IFPRI’s research analyzes options for policies, institutions, innovations, and technologies that can advance sustainable food production in a context of resource scarcity, threats to biodiversity, and climate change.
    Promoting Healthy Food Systems
  • IFPRI examines how to improve diet quality and nutrition for the poor, focusing particularly on women and children, and works to create synergies among the three vital components of the food system: agriculture, health, and nutrition.
    Improving Markets and Trade
  • IFPRI’s research focuses on strengthening markets and correcting market failures to enhance the benefits from market participation for small-scale farmers.
    Transforming Agriculture
  • The aim of IFPRI’s research in this area is to accelerate the transformation from low-income, rural, agriculture-based economies to high-income, more urbanized, and industrial service-based ones.
    Building Resilience
  • IFPRI’s research explores the causes and impacts of environmental factors that can affect food security, nutrition, health, and well-being
    Strengthening Institutions  and Governance
  • IFPRI’s research on institutions centers on collective action in management of natural resources and farmer organizations.

Highlights of the Global Hunger
Index (GHI) Report:

  • The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) makes the annual calculations of GHI.
  • Basing its readings on the most recent data, the 2016 GHI for India was derived from the fact that an estimated 15% population is undernourished -lacking in adequate food intake, both in quantity and quality.
  • The share of under-5 children who are `wasted’ is about 15% while the share of children who are `stunted’ is a staggering 39%. This reflects widespread and chronic lack of balanced food. The under-5 mortality rate is 4.8% in India, partially reflecting the fatal synergy of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.
  • Although India runs two of the world’s biggest children’s nutrition programmes, the ICDS for children under 6 years and the mid-day meal programme for school going kids up to the age of 14, malnutrition continues to haunt India.
    Global Health index:
  • The report is released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • The hunger index ranks countries based on undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting (low weight for height) and child stunting (low height for age).
  •  The GHI ranks countries on a 100-point scale. Zero is the best score (no hunger), and 100 is the worst, although neither of these extremes is reached in practice.
Where does India stand?
  • India has a “serious” hunger problem and ranks 100 among 119 developing countries, lagging behind countries such as North Korea and Iraq
  • With a global hunger index (GHI) score of 31.4, India is at the high end of the “serious” category
  • With more than a fifth of the country’s children under five suffering from “wasting” — low weight for height —India is among the very few countries that have made no progress, over the past 20 years, in arresting the problem.
    The report draws on India’s National Family Health Survey to show that the proportion of children in the country suffering the problem has increased from 17 per cent in 1998-2002 to 21 per cent in 2012-2016. This is way above the global prevalence — less than 10 per cent of under-five children suffer from wasting.
  • Only three other countries— Djibouti, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan — have a child-wasting rate of over 20 per cent.
  • India has considerably improved its child stunting rate, down 29% since 2000, but even that progress leaves India with a relatively high stunting rate of 38.4%.
  • More than one-fifth of Indian children under five weigh too little for their height and over a third are too short for their age.

What are the salient features of the National food security Mission in India?

  • National Food Security Mission (NFSM) is a Central Scheme of GOI launched in 2007
  • The aim is to bridge the yield gap in respect of these crops through dissemination of improved technologies and farm management practices.
  • The targets of 11th five year exceeded and it was extended to 12th five-year plan in 2012.
  • In the 12th Plan, NFSM aims at raising the food grain production by 25 million tones.

What are the primary objectives of the National Food Security Mission?

  • Restoring soil fertility and productivity at the individual farm level.
  • Promotion and extension of improved technologies
  • Productions of breeder seeds are done under ICAR while certified seeds and pulses are implemented by State and District agencies

Does the Constitution of India pledge the right to food?
The right to food or in general the economic, social, and cultural rights are defined in Part IV of the Constitution as Directive Principles of State Policy
The Right to Food in Indian Constitution is not recognized as a “Fundamental Right”
Article 21 and 47 of the constitution obliges the Government of India to take appropriate measures to ensure a dignified life with adequate food for all citizens.
Article 47
Article 47 of the Indian Constitution provides that it is the “duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health”.
Article 21
Protection of life and personal liberty – No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty

Causes of Lower Rank:

Endemic poverty, unemployment, lack of sanitation and safe drinking water, and lack of effective healthcare are main factors for the sorry state. Compared with previous years, marked improvement has taken place in child stunting and under-5 mortality rates but the proportion of undernourished people has declined only marginally from 17% in 2000 to the current 15%. The share of wasted children has inched down similarly.

India was ranked 83 in 2000 and 102 in 2008 with GHI scores of 38.2 and 36 respectively. This implies that, while hunger levels in India have diminished somewhat, the improvement has been outstripped by several other countries. Hence India’s ranking is worse today than it was 15 years ago. In fact, Bangladesh was ranked 84 with a score of 38.5 in 2000, just below India. But in 2016, it has improved beyond India with a GHI score of 27.1 and a rank of 90 to India’s 97.

Overall, global hunger levels are down by about 29% compared to 2000.Twenty countries, including Rwanda, Cambodia, and Myanmar, have reduced their GHI scores by over 50% each since 2000. And, for the second year in a row, no developing country for which data was available featured in the “extremely alarming” category.

What is Hunger?

Hunger is the physical sensation of desiring food. However when we talk about people suffering from hunger we usually refer to those who, for sustained periods, are unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs. i.e. for weeks, even months, its victims must live on significantly less than the recommended nutritional levels that the average person needs to lead a healthy life.
Daily undernourishment is a less visible form of hunger — but it affects many more people.

What causes Hunger? 
In purely quantitative terms, there is enough food available to feed the entire global population of 7 billion people. And yet, one out of every eight people is going hungry (about 850 million people worldwide). The reasons are:
Poverty Trap The poverty hunger nexus is considered the most important factor in causing hunger among people. The poverty-stricken do not have enough money to buy or produce enough food for themselves and their families. In turn, they tend to be weaker and cannot produce enough to buy more food. Thus the poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.
Politics of Distribution: Amartya Sen Won a Nobel Prize in part for demonstrating that hunger in modern times is not typically the product of a lack of food. Rather, hunger usually arises from food distribution problems, or from governmental policies in the developing world. It has since been broadly accepted that world hunger results from issues with the distribution as well as the production of food, with Sen’s 1981 essay Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation having played a prominent part if forging the new consensus.

Food wastage is very high – In developed countries a lot of food items are wasted due to improper eating habits. Whereas  high losses in developing nations are mainly due to a lack of technology and infrastructure as well as insect infestations, microbial growth, damage and high temperatures and humidity.

War – Since 1992, a large number of short and long-term food crises can be attributed to emergencies triggered by conflicts. From Asia to Africa to Latin America, fighting displaces millions of people from their homes, leading to some of the world’s worst hunger emergencies. Since 2004, conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan has uprooted more than a million people, precipitating a major food crisis — in an area that had generally enjoyed good rains and crops.
Socio Cultural Factors: World Bank studies consistently find that about 60% of those who are hungry are female. The apparent explanation for this imbalance is that, compared to men, women more often forgo meals to feed their children. Also lack of awareness among people about proper dietary requirements and nutritional value of various food items causes malnourishment.

How much food do you need?

The energy and protein that any person needs varies according to age, sex, body size, physical activity and to some extent climate. On average, the body needs more than 2,100 kilocalories per day per person to allow a normal, healthy life. Extra energy is needed during pregnancy and lactation.

Manifestations of hunger

The sensation of hunger, a lack of food in stomach, is  universal. But there are different manifestations of hunger:
Starvation It is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient, and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death. It is described as a “state of exhaustion of the body caused by lack of food.”
Under-nourishment is a quantitative term and is used to describe the status of people whose food intake does not include enough calories (energy) to meet minimum physiological needs for an active life. At present, there are 870 million undernourished people worldwide, most of them in developing countries.
Malnutrition is qualitative and means ‘badly nourished’; Malnutrition is characterized by inadequate intake of protein, energy and micronutrients which are essential for growth and healthy living. Thus a malnourished person does not necessarily feel hungry but starved of right nutrition these people suffer from frequent infections and diseases. Malnutrition is measured not by how much food is eaten but by physical measurements of the body – weight or height – and age.

Malnutrition covers a range of problems, such as being dangerously thin, being too short for one’s age, being deficient in vitamins and minerals (such as lacking iron which causes anemia) or even being too fat (obese).Each form of malnutrition depends on what nutrients are missing in the diet, for how long and at what age.

Source: The Hans India

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