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View: Where the Global Hunger Index 2019 went wrong in India's case

The Global Hunger Index ranking doesn’t reflect significant improvements by India on four key indicators.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Updated: Oct 19, 2019, 03.20 PM IST
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By Rajiv Kumar, Anamika Singh & Supreet Kaur

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is an international tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels. GHI scores are calculated each year to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger. They help raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger and provide a way to compare levels of hunger among countries.

The GHI is based on four indicators:

Undernourishment: the share of the population that is undernourished (insufficient caloric intake)

Child wasting: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition)

Child stunting: the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition)

Child mortality: the mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments)

Data on the above indicators are mainly obtained from United Nations agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) along with the World Bank.

GHI 2019 puts India at 102 out of 117 countries. In 2018, India was 103 out of 132. In 2017, due to a change in methodology, 44 more countries had been included and India was at 100 out of 119.

We feel GHI 2019 hasn’t done justice in capturing significant improvements made on the four key indicators in the last five years. As the report puts it: “GHI scores and indicator values, the rankings from one year’s report cannot be compared to those from another. In addition to the data and methodology revisions described previously, different countries are included in the ranking every year.” (GHI, 2019: Page no. 11).

Further, the data used for computation of GHI 2019 rankings is the average value over a three-year period — 2016-18 for undernourishment; 2014-18 for wasting and stunting and of 2017 for under-five mortality (World Bank, FAO, WHO and Unicef).

From the above scenario, it is clear that the cumulative scores calculated and the data utilised in the GHI Reports are not comparable. Moreover, the estimations are made by taking the averages of different values over variable time periods. The calculation is not based on the latest data nor has a standardised approach been followed.

Even if GHI’s own absolute indicator value for India is evaluated (see graph) over a period of time, it is evident that the country has improved phenomenally in stunting and under-five child mortality.

However, based on the currently available Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (2016-18) and SRS (2018) data, which is more recent and uses methodology similar to that mentioned in the report, India’s GHI score would actually be 27.4 instead of 30.3. The new rank will be 91instead of 102, which is a vast improvement for this year and the previous one.

CNNS (2016-18) is the most recently conducted third-party survey. It’s the first National Nutrition Survey conducted across India to assess the nutritional status of children from birth to 19 years. Data of more than 112,000 children were collected and state-level estimates were provided in the survey.

The results of CNNS corroborates that India is moving in the right direction. The data shows an accelerated decline in stunting at the rate of 1.8% per annum, almost double that of the previous decade. The following trends are encouraging:

Stunting is down to to 34.7%(CNNS) from 38.4% (NFHS 4)

Wasting to 17.3%(CNNS) from 21.0% (NFHS 4)

Underweight to 33.4%(CNNS) from 35.7% (NFHS 4)

These visible improvements in nutritional indicators have been possible because of recent government of India initiatives to tackle malnutrition.

There are many programmes by the health and nutrition sector that reflect the government’s commitment to tackle undernutrition.

Some of the recent initiatives underway include the launch of Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) in 2017 which is a conditional cash transfer scheme (`5,000) for pregnant and lactating women, under which more than 98.16 lakhs of beneficiary women have benefitted till now. Additionally, POSHAN Abhiyaan — the National Nutrition Mission launched in 2018, which focus on 1st 1,000 Days of a Child’s Life, Convergence across Ministries and Departments, Real-time, Aadhaarlinked beneficiary level monitoring and performance based joint incentives for frontline workers. Pan India launch of Rota Virus vaccination to prevent diarrhoea is also another initiative.

Further, increase in the honorarium for the field level functionaries like Anganwadi Worker and Anganwadi helper was also done last year. There is revision of per beneficiary cost norms under the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) which is at par with the increased inflation rates. September is celebrated every year as POSHAN Maah across the country. This helps in spreading the awareness on nutrition related issues and make it a public movement-Jan Andolan.

The government has accorded the highest priority to combat health and nutrition problems in the country.

Through the use of technology and community mobilisation, it will be possible to see some potential outcomes through better health and wellbeing of all women and children.

(Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman, NITI Aayog, Anamika Singh, director, nutrition division, Niti Aayog & Supreet Kaur, senior technical Expert, nutrition division, Niti Aayog. Views expressed are personal)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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