India has been ranked 111th out of 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2023, with a score of 28.7, indicating a serious level of hunger. The index was released on Thursday and has sparked controversy, with the Indian government terming it “erroneous and having malafide intent.”
In the 2023 Global Hunger Index, India’s ranking places it behind neighbouring countries, with Pakistan at 102nd, Bangladesh at 81st, Nepal at 69th, and Sri Lanka at 60th. India, however, did perform better than South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara, both of which recorded a score of 27.
The report reveals troubling statistics for India, including a 16.6 percent rate of undernourishment and a 3.1 per cent under-five mortality rate. The most alarming statistic is the prevalence of anaemia among women aged 15 to 24, standing at a staggering 58.1 per cent.
India also holds the unfortunate distinction of having the highest child-wasting rate in the world at 18.7 per cent. Child wasting measures acute undernutrition by comparing a child’s weight to their height.
The Indian government has rejected the Global Hunger Index’s findings, referring to it as a flawed measure of “hunger” that does not accurately reflect India’s actual position. The Women and Child Development Ministry released a statement saying that the index has “serious methodological issues” and shows “malafide intent.”
“The index is an erroneous measure of hunger and suffers from serious methodological issues. Three out of the four indicators used for the calculation of the index are related to the health of children and cannot be representative of the entire population. The fourth and most important indicator ‘Proportion of Undernourished (PoU) population’ is based on an opinion poll conducted on a very small sample size of 3,000,” the ministry said in the statement.
The ministry also pointed out that data from April 2023 shows consistent increases in the measurement data of children under five years, and the percentage of child wasting, as observed on the Poshan Tracker, has been consistently below 7.2 percent, contradicting the Global Hunger Index’s reported value of 18.7 percent for child wasting in 2023.
Additionally, the ministry argued that two other indicators, stunting and wasting, are outcomes of complex interactions involving factors such as sanitation, genetics, environment, and food utilization, apart from hunger, which the Global Hunger Index takes as the causative/outcome factor for stunting and wasting.
Earlier, in the 2022 edition of the Global Hunger Index, India was ranked 107th out of 121 countries.
The 2023 Global Hunger Index reflects a stagnation in progress against hunger worldwide, with a score of 18.3, considered moderate, and only slightly below the world’s 2015 GHI score of 19.1. It further highlights the rise in the prevalence of undernourishment since 2017, with the number of undernourished people increasing from 572 million to approximately 735 million.