India may have an abysmally low rank in a global index on battling hunger, but a United Nations expert believes that it will change for the better — sooner rather than later. UN assistant secretary-general Gerda Verburg, on her maiden visit to India, said she was highly “impressed” by the country’s pace and “inclusive working” method.
“I am aware that there are many challenges in India. But the progress in India will be sooner rather than later. It is my expectation not only in the Global Hunger Index (GHI), but also in nutrition,” Verburg told PTI. India ranks a low 97 among 118 developing countries in GHI, but Verburg, who is also the coordinator of the UN’s Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) movement, said India was dealing with the issue in a “dynamic” way.
The SUN movement, which started in 2010, works collaboratively with 59 countries to end malnutrition. States such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand are members of this movement. “If Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh will see the number of stunted children going down from where they are right now in three years, they will only be speeding up to make more progress,” she said.
After visiting villages and districts in Maharashtra and UP, she said she was struck by the “inclusivity of programmes” at the local level. “I am impressed seeing the dynamic way with which things are taking place, both at the state and district levels. People here are motivated and willing enough to take ownership of (nutrition) projects,” she said.
Describing India’s implementation method as “smart”, Verburg said unlike many countries where people faced problems receiving funds, in India almost everybody had a bank account, ensuring “last mile connectivity’ — funds reaching the right quarters. “In this SUN movement, India directly targeting people in need of financial support is quite unique. It is making use of technology in a very smart way,” she added.
Verburg also pushed for dialogue among the various stake-holders – government, private sector and civil society. “In some countries the government and private sector do not know each other. Sometimes it is the private sector and civil society that don’t go together,” she said.
“But if we want to make progress in real terms, we need all of them and this requires jumping over our own shadow,” she said.