Germany’s Welt Hungerhilfe organization has released its ‘Hunger Index’ and the hunger ranking of countries based on it. In this again India has been placed at a very low position at 111th position. This year 125 countries have been included in the ranking. India was ranked 107th in the list of 121 countries in the year 2022 and 101st in the ranking of 116 countries in 2021. Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka are also above India, which are dependent on food items coming from India. In such a situation, it is natural to raise questions on the report.
There are four scales to measure the Hunger Index – malnutrition, stunting in children, underweight in children (low weight for height) i.e. wasting and child mortality (in children under five years of age). According to Welt Hungerhilfe, this index in India is 28.7, which is very serious, whereas in Pakistan it is 26.6, due to which Pakistan is also at 102nd position above India. Bangladesh is at 81st position with 19.0 points and Sri Lanka is at 60th position with 13.3 points. Question marks are being raised on both the data and methodology used in creating this index. Not only the Indian government, many experts are also rejecting the report outright.
A large part of the index is related to child mortality rate. While creating the hunger index for the year 2023, the data of 2020-21 has been taken and it is reported that India’s child mortality rate is 31 per thousand. According to the data published by the Sample Registration System of India, the child mortality rate had decreased from 35 per thousand to 32 per thousand in 2020 as compared to 2019. If this rate of decline in child mortality rate is considered, then it is expected to reach 24.4 by 2023. In such a situation, there is no reason why old figures should be used to describe the country as suffering from hunger. According to the latest data, the infant mortality rate in Pakistan is 55.8 per thousand. The child mortality rate is even higher.
Despite this, India is being described as inferior to Pakistan. The reason for this is that wrong data has been used in other scales of the hunger index also. There are some errors in the data of other international agencies also. While the figures published by the Government of India were showing the infant mortality rate as 28 per thousand in 2020, international agencies are putting it at 29.848 based on their old estimates. Any foreign or Indian agency is allowed to use only the data published by the government. But the Hunger Index report openly says that it is not necessary that only the data given by the governments has been used in this report.
Welt Hungerhilfe also does not have factual data regarding malnutrition figures, because the household consumption survey by the concerned agency has not been conducted after 2011. Therefore, malnutrition figures have been prepared on the basis of a ‘Gallup survey’ based on a sample of 3000 people. If we talk about production and availability of food items, India ranks 35th in the world in the latest global ranking (2020) available of 188 countries. A comprehensive nutrition campaign has been started by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to deal with the problem of malnutrition. Statistics are being published in Nutrition Tracker based on real data of more than seven crore children, statistics are continuously showing that only 7.2 percent of children in India are wasting, Hunger Report (2023) based on small sample NFHS 2019 The figure of 18.7 percent wasting of -21 has been used. Experts on stunting believe that there cannot be a single standard of height for the entire country. Not only stunting but thinness also depends on many things like geographical area, environment, genetics and nutrition.
Based on nutrition tracker, only 7.7 percent children in the country were malnourished in February 2023. On the other hand, based on the Gallup survey of only 3000 people, the incidence of malnutrition in India is said to be 16.6 percent. There are also many questions over the methodology of Welt Hungerhilfe’s report. Yet if the same formula is used by the agency to arrive at the Hunger Index, if the correct figures are taken, i.e. child mortality rate of 24.4 per thousand, wasting among under-five children is taken to be 7.2 per cent as per the data collected by Nutrition Tracker. If we consider malnutrition as 7.7 as per nutrition tracker data, and exclude stunting data since it is not comparable, the hunger index figure comes out to be 9.528. In this respect, according to the formula of Welt Hungerhilfe, India’s ranking in the hunger index is not 111th but 48th. In such a situation, it is clear that this agency continuously tries to defame India by using wrong data and wrong methodology. Strict action should be taken against all such agencies which defame India.
(These are the personal views of the author.)