From the Viewsroom

Hunger pangs

Purnima S Das | Updated on October 24, 2019

Undernourishment among children in India is appalling

India’s child ‘wasting’, at 20.8 per cent, is the highest for any country, says this year’s Global Hunger Index (GHI), in which India is a shameful 102nd among the 117 countries ranked. With a score of 30.3, India suffers from a hunger level that is ‘serious’, lagging behind Pakistan (28.5), Bangladesh (25.8), Nepal (20.8), and Myanmar (19.8).

The GHI looks at four parameters: undernourishment (insufficient calorie intake), child wasting (under-fives with low weight-height ratio), child stunting (under-fives with low height for age) and child mortality (under-five deaths). In 2000, India scored an alarming 38.8; things have improved, but glacially. Myanmar’s improvement is laudable — from 44.4 in 2000, it’s at 19.8 this year. The GHI also flagged how climate change is pushing hunger levels higher globally. The report points to ‘the inextricable link between hunger and climate change’ and how important and urgent it is to solve ‘two of the world’s greatest challenges’. Just a day after this report was published, UNICEF said that in 2018, India reported the most number of deaths of under-fives in the world — 8,82,000. The report, ‘The State of the World’s Children’, says 38 per cent of children under five in India suffer from stunting, and that malnutrition caused 69 per cent of the under-five deaths. Every other child is also affected by some form of undernourishment. All this in a country that is the largest producer of milk — estimated production was 176.35 million tonnes during 2017-18 — and with excess foodgrain rotting in warehouses.

With such cheerless numbers, the Centre’s Poshan Abhiyaan, or National Nutrition Mission, aimed at making India malnutrition-free by 2022, seems ambitious. Collective effort is required to achieve zero hunger — one of the 17 sustainable development goals. It should be a pressing priority. But how often do leaders address this issue at election rallies? All we hear is the oft-spouted rhetoric that youth is the hope of the future, to which a chorus of young voices may well counter: ‘How dare you?’

The writer is a Sub Editor with BusinessLine

Published on October 24, 2019

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