Fighting hunger: GHI, Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey findings point at a serious problem

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Updated: Oct 17, 2019 3:59 AM

The fact that India lags neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh, despite a significantly higher per capita income, suggests the data on India’s hunger prevalence misses something.

National Food Security Act, nfsa, FCI grains stock, food ministry, Global Hunger Index, FCI debt, FCI procurement and storage, DBT, fci grains, india exports, Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey, india grain export, POSHAN Abhiyaan, india mid day meals Factors such as poor infant and child feeding practices, poor nutrition among women before and during pregnancy, and poor sanitation practices need to be remedied at a large scale. (Image: Reuters)

India ranking 102 out of 117 nations in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) is shocking. After all, with the National Food Security Act (NFSA) providing subsidised food grains to two-thirds of the country’s population, and growth over 2006-2016 having lifted nearly 300 million out of poverty, prevalence of hunger should have fallen drastically.

The fact that India lags neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh, despite a significantly higher per capita income, suggests the data on India’s hunger prevalence misses something.

The comparison with earlier GHI rankings—for instance, India was placed 55th in 2014, out of 76 countries—is also erroneous given how India’s index score has shown improvement over the years. Also, as NITI Aayog has pointed out earlier, the GHI scores are based on current and historical data that are being constantly revised and improved by the UN agencies that collect these data.

That said, India’s child wasting rate is the highest globally, at 28%, and 10% of children aged between six months and 23 months don’t receive even the minimum acceptable diet. The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS), commissioned by the ministry of health and family welfare, has also reported similarly dire findings.

Factors such as poor infant and child feeding practices, poor nutrition among women before and during pregnancy, and poor sanitation practices need to be remedied at a large scale. Also, the CNNS finding that over a third of Indian children aged under five are stunted is a key data point that needs to be kept in mind. If policies in place to tackle hunger—NFSA, mid-day meals, POSHAN Abhiyaan—are failing to address childhood stunting, as the government’s own data shows, there is a case for more concerted action, especially on addressing leakages and gaps in policy implementation.

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