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India "improved" in Global Hunger Index in 2005-14, though inter-state differences remain: Top study

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, “2015 Global Hunger Index” has ranked India No 80th of 117 countries selected for calculating global hunger index (GHI). While this is better than Pakistan (No 93), this is no consolation, as it India’s ranking has been found to be lower than the other important neighbouring countries – China (No 21), Nepal (No 58), Sril Lanka (No 69), and Bangladesh (No 73).
Prepared by three western institutes, Concern Worldwide, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Welthungerhilfe, the report maps global hunger levels and identifies the improvements or the deterioration of food security in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, even as pointing out that there is a “complex relationship between hunger and conflict.” 
Pointing out that GHI is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally, regionally, and by country, the report has looked into four major issues while calculating GHI:
· the proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the population (reflecting the share of the pop­ulation with insufficient caloric intake); 
· the proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from wasting (that is, low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition);
· the proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from stunting (that is, low height for their age, reflect­ing chronic undernutrition); and
· the mortality rate of children under the age of five (partially reflecting the fatal synergy of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments). 
The report states, “South Asia’s GHI score declined at a moderate rate between 1990 and 2000, but then progress stalled between 2000 and 2005 before hunger levels dropped again between 2005 and 2015. This closely follows the trend of GHI scores for India, where nearly three-quarters of South Asia’s population lives.” Basing its calculations of the basis of the data available till 2014, when the UPA government was thrown out of power, the report states, “The decrease of more than 8 points in South Asia’s GHI score since 2005 may be largely attributed to recent successes in the fight against child undernutrition in India.”
The report underlines, “According to the most recent data from India, wasting in children fell from 20 percent to 15 percent between 2005–2006 and 2013–2014, and stunting fell from 48 percent to 39 percent in the same period.” 
The report further says that all this was mainly due to “programmes and initiatives launched by India’s central and state governments in the past decade”, which, it adds, “seem to have made a difference for child nutrition.”
“The Government of India scaled up nutrition-spe­cific interventions over the past decade”, the report says, adding, one of the interventions was “a final drive to expand the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme that aims to improve the health, nutrition, and development of children in India.”
The second major intervention, it says, was “the creation of the National Rural Health Mission (NHRM), a community-based health initiative designed to deliver essential health services to rural India.”
But the report complains, “Progress in reducing child undernutrition has been uneven across India’s states. While the reasons for the improvements—or lack thereof — are not entirely clear, one factor that seems to correlate with undernutrition in India is open defecation, which contributes to illnesses that pre­vent the absorption of nutrients.”
“Additionally”, it adds, “the low social status of women, which affects women’s health and nutrition, makes it more likely that babies will be born underweight.”

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