India sees decline in undernourishment rate and increase in obesity: UN Report

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on July 15, 2020

According to the United Nations report on The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, the number of undernourished people in India has plummeted by 60 million in over a decade. However, the country has seen a rise in the obesity level.

The number of undernourished people in India declined from 249.4 million (21.7 per cent) in 2004-06 to 189.2 million (14 per cent) in 2017-19.

The two Asian countries that reported a reduction in the number of undernourished people are India and China.

“Despite very different conditions, histories and rates of progress, the reduction in hunger in both the countries stems from long-term economic growth, reduced inequality, and improved access to basic goods and services,” the report said.

The report added that highly prevalent stunting in Indian children under the age of 5 has also declined from 47.8 per cent in 2012 to 34.7 per cent in 2019 or from 62 million in 2012 to 40.3 million in 2019.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, released on Monday, estimated that almost 690 million people globally were undernourished (or hungry) in 2019, up by 10 million from 2018.

The report also suggested that more Indian adults have grown obese between 2012-16. The number of adults (18 years and older) who are obese grew from 25.2 million in 2012 to 34.3 million in 2016, growing from 3.1 per cent to 3.9 per cent.

UN is apprehensive of the speculations that the Covid-19 pandemic could push over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020.

The pandemic is increasing the vulnerabilities and deepening the inadequacies of global food systems.

In percentage terms, Africa is the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 per cent of its people undernourished.

“While it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, the report estimates that at a minimum, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by Covid-19,” it said.

What worked for India?

According to the UN, in India, the country’s Targeted Public Distribution System represents the largest social protection program in the world, reaching 800 million people with subsidised cereals that can be purchased from more than 500,000 fair price shops across the country.

India also facilitated well linking small farmers with growing urban markets by establishing rural business hubs.

These hubs procured food from the farmers and provided services related to farm inputs and equipment, as well as access to credit.

Having food processing, packaging and cooling facilities at the same location allows consumers to benefit from economies of agglomeration and, on the whole, reduce transaction costs throughout the food supply chain. This model in India has given rise to rural supermarkets that provide cheaper staple food, it added.

Published on July 15, 2020

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