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The Global Hunger Index And India’s Rebuke Of its 2021 Report

Global Hunger Index

Hunger has been a major concern worldwide for organizations and governments and the pandemic has worsened the conditions even more with many people losing their income and disruptions in supply owing to nationwide lockdowns. The UN has set ending hunger worldwide by 2030 as a part of their agenda on Sustainable Development Goals. But how is this determined?

Hunger levels are measured and tracked comprehensively at the national, regional and global levels by the “Global Hunger Index” that ranks the countries around the year in their annual report.

About Global Hunger Index (GHI)

The rankings are prepared by Concern Worldwide, Ireland’s largest aid working to tackle poverty in the world’s poorest countries and the German NGO Welthungerhilfe and was initiated in 2006 and its results appear in an annual report published in October. A three-step process scores countries on a 100 point scale based on an aggregate of each of the four indicators where 0 is the best score and 100 is the worst. The Indicators used in the rankings are – undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. 

For undernourishment, the values are from the 2021 edition of the FAO Food Security Indicators of the UN, for child stunting and wasting, the data are from the 2021 edition of UNICEF, WHO, and World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates with the publishers saying they also included data from India’s Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016–2018 and National Report published in 2019 while the under-five mortality rate data were obtained from the 2020 edition of the UN IGME (Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation) Child Mortality Estimates published in September 2020.

India’s Rankings

India ranked 101 out of 116 countries in the 2021 rankings, slipping from 94th in 2020. The report termed the Hunger levels in India as “serious”, which has improved from its hunger levels as “alarming” in 2000. Eighteen countries including China, Kuwait and Brazil have shared the top rank with a score of less than five, while the bottom three countries were Somalia (116), Yemen(115) and Central African Republic(114).

 Global Hunger Index Graph

But the government of India has strongly rebuked the GHI over its methodology and data sources over the decline in India’s rankings that it now fares lower than neighbour Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. 

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) said – “It is shocking to find that the Global Hunger Report 2021 has lowered the rank of India on the basis of FAO estimate on proportion of undernourished population, which is found to be devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues.” It was also noted with surprise that the other four countries of this region — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka — have not been affected at all by Covid-19 pandemic induced losses of income rather they have been able to improve their position on the indicator. They termed the methods by FAO unscientific that completely disregards the government’s massive effort to ensure food security of the entire population during the Covid period, verifiable data on which are available. The Government alleged that the value of a key indicator – undernourishment – is ‘inflated’ as there are only 3.9% anganwadi children found to be undernourished, it is not possible to evaluate the extent of malnutrition for the period till 2018 when the Poshan Abhiyan was launched. They termed it as “a deliberate attempt to lower India’s rankings”.

GHI Statements

“If a country’s ranking changes from one year to the next, it may be in part because it is being compared to a different group of countries,” said the GHI. Further, the publishers said that the rankings from one year’s report cannot be compared to those from another as different countries are included in the ranking every year and scores and indicators are revised. The GHI also said they had not used FAO’s Gallup telephone-based opinion indicator — the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) — for their report(to which the government has expressed rebuke). They also add that “any developments in 2021 are not yet reflected in the latest prevalence of undernourishment data, which covers 2018-2020″. So, the “full effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will likely only be reflected in the GHI data in the coming years”.

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