New Delhi: Despite averaging over 8.5% growth since 2000, India has achieved less than half of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal targets in hunger and is 94th on the Global Hunger Index of 118 countries, a report released by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said.
“Hunger has many faces,” said Dr Doris Wiesmann, a nutritionist with IFPRI who developed the index. “So the index uses a multidimensional approach that gives a very comprehensive picture of hunger in developing and transitional countries.”
The Global Hunger Index 2007 was calculated on the basis of data from the period between 2000 and 2005. India’s score is 25.03, compared with 8.37 for China, which is 47th on the list. Libya tops the list with a score of 0.87.
IFPRI calculates the Global Hunger Index to capture progress by countries on three indicators for two UN millennium goal targets for 2015. The indicators are: the proportion of people who are calorie-deficient, child malnutrition, and child mortality. The two millennium development goals for all countries relevant to the Global Hunger Index are: halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger between 1990 and 2015, and reduce the mortality rate among children under five years of age by two-thirds by 2015.
India’s Global Hunger Index Progress Indicator of 0.496 implies that instead of a reduction of 17.6 in the index since 1990, India managed only 8.7 in the 17 years to 2007.
The full target may be difficult to achieve in the remaining eight years, says the report. “Positive trends prevail in Asia. Nevertheless, countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Laos and Cambodia all failed to achieve their midpoint Global Hunger Index targets,” it added.
Yoginder K. Alagh, author of India’s poverty line and former planning minister, said, “This is a consequence of a very long neglect of agriculture. Thousands of poor farmers’ families get into the poverty and hunger trap because they have been left behind by our glittering growth which has bypassed them. I think even if Rs400 out of Rs1,000 spent on the public distribution system goes to them, we need to run it. Especially in areas where poverty is concentrated.”
Cuba has made the maximum progress in the Global Hunger Index with a score of 0.971. It has already reduced its Global Hunger Index by 2.9, compared with the targeted 3.
Even Ethiopia managed to reduce the Global Hunger Index by 12.3, compared with the targeted 24.7, and is placed just ahead of India. With a reduction of 4.4 from its target of 6.9, China is 10 places ahead of India.
The report also says that because of cultural practices and the low status women enjoy in society in South Asia, it has the highest child malnutrition rate in the world. “In some parts of India, for instance, male family members eat first and women make do with the leftovers. Children of undernourished and anaemic mothers have a higher risk of being born underweight. More than half of all children with low birth weight are born in South Asia,” the report points out.