In a Press release by Swadeshi Jagran Manch said that, like previous years, once again a German organisation, Welt Hungerhilfe has published its ‘Hunger Index’ and the hunger ranking of the countries of the world based on the same. In this ranking, Bharat has once again been placed at a very low position at 111th ranking. It is noteworthy that this year 125 countries have been included in this ranking. Last year in 2022, Bharat was ranked 107th in the list of 121 countries and in 2021, India was ranked 101st in the ranking of 116 countries.
Further the release stated that, if we believe the report, the performance of countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc., who themselves are dependent on food supplies from Bharat, is much better than India. In such a situation, it is natural to raise questions on this report. If we consider production and availability of food, India ranks 35th in the world in the latest global ranking (2020) of 188 countries. The continuously increasing per capita production of food grains, milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, fish etc. confirms that Bharat is today producing sufficient, or even surplus food, compared to demand.
Four parameters have been chosen to measure this Hunger Index – malnutrition, stunting in children, wasting in children (low weight for height) and child mortality (mortality rate in children under 5 years of age). Hunger index is estimated based on all these scales. According to Welt Hungerhilfe, for Bharat this index is 28.7, which is very serious, whereas in Pakistan it is 26.6, due to which Pakistan is ranked at 102nd position, above India. Similarly, Bangladesh is ranked at 81st position with 19.0 points and Sri Lanka is ranked at 60th position with 13.3 points.
According to the data published by the Sample Registration System of India, the child mortality rate had decreased from 35 per thousand in 2019 to 32 per thousand in the year 2020. If this rate of decline in child mortality is considered, then it was expected to reach 24.4 by the year 2023. In such a situation, there is no reason why the outdated child mortality rate in India should be taken at 31 per thousand, to estimate hunger index of 2023 in Bharat.
About malnutrition, Welt Hungerhilfe does not have any factual and credible data, as the household consumption survey by the concerned official agency has not been conducted since 2011. But unfortunately Welt Hungerhilfe puts the figure of malnutrition at 16.6 per cent.
In this context, Poshan Tracker, a Government of India initiative, has published data based on real time figures obtained from more than 7 crore children covered under the scheme. Poshan Tracker data puts malnutrition in Children to be 7.7 in February. Notably malnutrition in the population can’t be in much variance with malnutrition in children.
Till recently, data on stunting and wasting assessed by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) was only available in the country, which was questioned due to its small sample size. While NFHS used to draw conclusions based on a relatively small sample, Poshan Tracker is publishing data based on real time figures from more than 7 crore children, with wasting data consistently showing that only 7.2 per cent of India’s children were wasted, whereas Welt Hungerhilfe’s Hunger Report (2023) used the NFHS 2019-21 figure of 18.7 percent wasting.
As far as stunting is concerned, experts believe that there cannot be a single standard of height for the entire country. Not only stunting but even wasting too depends on many factors including geography, environment, genetics and nutrition. If we talk about height, the height of Punjabi children is several inches more than the children of North-East. The World Health Organization has also accepted this. Therefore, stunting cannot be a suitable criteria to measure hunger in the country.
Not only this, Government’s Nutrition Campaign (Poshan Abhiyan) is working hard to address the problem of malnutrition in the country, and the World Health Organization has also started using the data published by Poshan Tracker. Although there are many questions on the methodology of the Welt Hungerhilfe report, even if the formula used by the agency to calculate the hunger index is followed, and the correct data is fed i.e. child mortality rate (under 5 mortality rate) of 24.4 per thousand; if wasting and malnourishment (taking data on malnutrition in children as proxy to population data), are considered to be 7.2 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively, as per the data collected by Poshan Tracker, and if stunting figures are discarded (since they are not comparable), then hunger index estimated by the author of this article, comes out to be 9.528. Accordingly, as per to the formula of Welt Hungerhilfe, Bharat’s ranking in the hunger index would be 48th and not 111th.
Swadeshi Jagran Manch shows its deep anguish against this Global Hunger Report and calls upon the patriotic people of Bharat to not believe such reports with malafide intentions. We call upon Government of Bharat to take this issue at diplomatic level and curb publication of such reports defaming Bharat, in future. Issue must also be taken up with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other UN agencies to expedite correction in their respective data sets, based on official data provided by Government of Bharat.