India’s hungry children: IFPRI publishes damning report

India’s hungry children: IFPRI publishes damning report
Children consuming their mid day meals in a school. The global hunger index report of Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ranks India at 100 out of 119 countries. (Reuters Photo)


NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 12 (PTI): India has major problem of hunger which has caused large-scale child malnutrition. The global hunger index report of Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ranks India at 100 out of 119 countries, three notches down from 97 last year.


India’s rank of 100 is lower than even its poorer neighbours such as Nepal (72), Bangladesh (88), Sri Lanka (84) and Myanmar (77). China has a far higher rank of 29. In South Asia, only Pakistan is lower than India at 106.


“Given that three-quarters of South Asia’s population resides in India, the situation in that country strongly influences South Asia’s regional score. At 31.4, India’s 2017 GHI score is at the high end of the serious category,” the report says.


Impoverished countries Djibouti and Rwanda share the 100th rank with India. Surprisingly, even North Korea and Iraq are ranked higher at 93 and 78, respectively.


Chile, Cuba and Turkey, with a score of less than 5, ranked the best among developing nations.


“According to 2015-2016 survey data, more than a fifth (21 percent) of children in India suffer from wasting. Only three other countries in this year’s GHI—Djibouti, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan—have data or estimates showing child wasting above 20 percent in the latest period (2012-2016),” the report says.


According to the report, India’s child wasting rate has not substantially improved over the past 25 years. “But the country has made progress in other areas: Its child stunting rate, while still relatively high at 38.4 percent, has decreased in each of the reference periods in this report, down from 61.9 percent in 1992,” the report adds.


Citing a study, the report states India has implemented a “massive scale-up” of two national programs that address nutrition—the Integrated Child Development Services and the National Health Mission—but these have yet to achieve adequate coverage.


“Areas of concern include (1) the timely introduction of complementary foods for young children (that is, the transition away from exclusive breastfeeding), which declined from 52.7 percent to 42.7 percent between 2006 and 2016; (2) the share of children between 6 and 23 months old who receive an adequate diet—a mere 9.6 percent for the country; and (3) household access to improved sanitation facilities—a likely factor in child health and nutrition—which stood at 48.4 percent as of 2016.”


“While the world has committed to reaching Zero Hunger by 2030, the fact that over 20 million people are currently at risk of famine shows how far we are from realizing this vision,” the report adds.


“India’s high ranking on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) again this year brings to the fore the disturbing reality of the country’s stubbornly high proportions of malnourished children,” the IFPRI said in a statement.


IFPRI pointed out that more than one-fifth of Indian children under five weigh too little for their height and over a third are too short for their age.


“Even with the massive scale up of national nutrition- focused programmes in India, drought and structural deficiencies have left large number of poor in India at risk of malnourishment in 2017,” said P K Joshi, IFPRI Director for South Asia.


However, he said that the on-going efforts are expected to make significant changes in improving the existing situation.


Joshi appreciated that India has developed and launched an action plan on ‘undernourishment free India’ by 2022. The plan shows stronger commitment and greater investments in tackling malnutrition in the coming years.


The index is based on values of four indicators: the percentage of the population that is undernourished, percentage of children under five years old who suffer from wasting (low weight-for-height), the percentage of children under five years old who suffer from stunting (low height-for-age), and the percentage of children who die before the age of five (child mortality).