India slips in Global Hunger Index, ranks 107 out of 121 nations

India has fallen six positions on the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI), ranking 107th out of 121 countries in a report published on Friday.

Asia’s third-largest economy fared worse than other South Asian countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. This was the third straight year in which India’s ranking on the scale fell – it previously ranked 101 in 2021, and 94 in 2020.

The GHI, jointly published by the German-based Welthungerhilfe and Dublin-based Concern Worldwide, which ranks countries by “severity”, gave India a score of  29.1 – a hunger level falling under the “serious” category.

The index has five levels of hunger under which each country falls – low, moderate, serious, alarming and extremely alarming.

Based on data from 2019-2021, 16.3 percent of India’s population was undernourished. India is home to the second-largest population in the world at 1.4 billion people.

“South Asia … has the highest child stunting rate and by far the highest child wasting rate of any world region,” the report said, adding India’s child wasting rate of 19.3 percent was the “highest of any country” in the world.

According to the World Health Organization, child wasting is when a person is too thin for his or her height as a result of failing to gain weight or suffering from rapid weight loss.

Based on data from 2019-2021, 16.3 percent of India’s population was undernourished [File: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

India’s government issued a statement criticising the report for using an “erroneous measure of hunger”, adding it “suffers from serious methodological issues”.

“Three out of the four indicators used for calculation of the index are related to health of children and cannot be representative of the entire population,” said the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.

“The report is not only disconnected from ground reality, but also chooses to deliberately ignore efforts made by the government to ensure food security for the population, especially during the COVID pandemic.”

In terms of stunting rates, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan each scored between 35 and 38 percent, with Afghanistan’s rate being the highest in South Asia, the GHI report said.

India is one of the top-performing economies in the world with a growth rate of above six percent.

“India has been doing fairly well in 2022 and is expected to continue growing fairly robustly in 2023,” the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas said on Tuesday.

But the country also faces stark inequality with the top 10 percent of the population holding nearly 80 percent of the total national wealth. India has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.46 trillion.

Global trends

According to the annual report, some 828 million people were suffering from undernourishment around the world in 2021.

According to GHI, the highest levels of hunger were in “Africa South of the Sahara” and South Asia – with progress against hunger in these regions having stagnated.

“The situation is likely to worsen in the face of the current barrage of overlapping global crises – conflict, climate change, and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic—all of which are powerful drivers of hunger,” the report said.

“The war in Ukraine has further increased global food, fuel, and fertilizer prices and has the potential to contribute to food shortages in 2023 and beyond.”

Last month 238 NGOs in 75 countries in an open letter at the United Nations General Assembly said that one person is estimated to be dying of hunger every four seconds – calling for immediate global action to “end the spiralling global hunger crisis”.

The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators including undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality – with tracking taking place at global, national and regional levels.

For 15 countries a score could not be calculated due to a lack of data, the GHI report said.

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