Oct 18, 2019-Friday
India is languishing at the 102nd spot among 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) that was released by Ireland-based Concern Worldwide, an aid agency, on Wednesday, also World Food Day. The country’s ranking is eight spots below Pakistan (94) and 14 below Bangladesh (88). China, the only country with a population size similar to India, is ranked 25 on the index. GHI uses indicators such as undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality to calculate the levels of hunger and under-nutrition worldwide, and India’s score of 30.3 means it suffers from a level of hunger that is “serious”.
There are two aspects of the 2019 GHI report that should worry the government. One, India has the highest child wasting rate of any country (20.8%). Wasting — it means low weight for a given height — is a strong predictor of mortality among children under the age of five. Second, the child stunting rate — meaning low height for a given age due to insufficient nutrient intake — is also very high at 37.9%. This is alarming because a sound foundation is critical for the overall development of a human being. In fact, the recently released Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey also sends out a similar warning.
Despite the nutrition crisis, which can also take intergenerational dimensions, the allocation for children in the Union Budget 2019-2020 has only shown a marginal increase of 0.05%, going up from 3.24% in the last fiscal to 3.29% in the current fiscal with a grant of ₹91,644.29 crore.
Along with increasing the budget for children’s health, the Centre should also take into account the new threat that the GHI report has indicated: Climate change, which has direct and indirect negative impact on food security and hunger through changes in food production and availability. This means that the standard inputs to tackle stunting and wasting of children — improving sanitation facilities, providing clean water, better maternal health and early childhood nutrition — will not be enough. Further investments are needed to help farmers to develop and carry out context-specific adaptation strategies that will strengthen food and nutrition security for the people. One key aspect of adaptation strategy would be to secure the land and water rights, including customary rights, of indigenous peoples and rural communities because climate change will lead to competition for resources, and the weakest and the marginalised cannot be left alone to tackle the challenge that can affect one of the basic blocks of life: food.
First Published: Oct 17, 2019 19:52 IST