India misses global hunger reduction targets: report

India is home to 194.6 million undernourished people in the world, according to the State of Food Insecurity


India’s record is worse than the average of 12.9% undernourished for all developing regions put together. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
India’s record is worse than the average of 12.9% undernourished for all developing regions put together. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

New Delhi: Home to a quarter of the world’s hungry, India has missed the target set under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of halving the proportion of undernourished by 2015, and the World Food Summit (WFS) target of halving the absolute number of hungry.

India is home to 194.6 million of the 794.6 million undernourished people in the world, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World report released on Wednesday.

Compared with India, other South Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal have performed remarkably well, said the report, jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.

Higher economic growth in India has not translated into higher food consumption, “let alone better diets,” and the poor may have failed to benefit from growth, it said.

While the proportion of undernourished in India’s population fell from 23.7% in 1990-92 to 15.2% in 2014-16, a decline of 36%, Nepal and Bangladesh reported improved reductions at 65.6% and 49.9%, respectively.

“The situation in India is likely to worsen due to severe cutbacks in the Union budget on key programmes on child nutrition and mid-day meal scheme,” said Biraj Patnaik, principal adviser to the Supreme Court Commissioners in the Right to Food case.

The Commissioners are appointed to track hunger and the implementation of interim orders relevant to the case across the country.

A delay in implementing the National Food Security Act—just 11 States have so far implemented the law—could exacerbate the situation, Patnaik said.

Other countries in South Asia such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, too, have made progress in reducing hunger, even if the pace has been too slow for them to reach either the WFS or the MDG targets, the report observed, citing Bangladesh as a notable exception due to a National Food Policy Framework adopted in the mid-2000s.

Nepal has not only reached the MDG target but has almost reached the threshold of 5% undernourished in its population.

The report shows India’s record is worse than the average of 12.9% undernourished for all developing regions put together. While the majority—72 out of 129 countries monitored by the FAO—achieved the MDG target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, developing regions as a whole missed the target by a small margin, the report found.

“The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the Zero-Hunger generation,” FAO director general José Graziano da Silva said in a statement.

Several factors such as improved agricultural productivity, inclusive growth and social protection have enabled countries to achieve their targets, the report said.

“Inclusive growth provides a proven avenue for those with fewer assets and skills in boosting their incomes, and providing them the resilience they need to weather natural and man-made shocks,” it said.

More than two-thirds of the world’s poor still do not have access to regular and predictable forms of social support, the report said.

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