Global Hunger Index 2017

India’s high ranking on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) again this year brings to the fore the disturbing reality of the country’s stubbornly high proportions of malnourished children—more than one-fifth of Indian children under five weigh too little for their height and over a third are too short for their age.

At 31.4, India’s 2017 GHI score is at the high end of the “serious” category, and is one of the main factors pushing South Asia to the category of worst performing region on the GHI this year, followed closely by Africa South of the Sahara. India is ranked 100th out of 119 countries, and has the third highest score in all of Asia—only Afghanistan and Pakistan are ranked worse.

“Even with the massive scale up of national nutrition-focused programs in India, drought and structural deficiencies have left large number of poor in India at risk of malnourished in 2017,” said P.K. Joshi, IFPRI Director for South Asia. “The on-going efforts are expected to make significant changes in improving the existing situation. It is welcoming that India has developed and launched an action plan on “undernourishment free India” by 2022. The Action plan shows stronger commitment and greater investments in tackling malnutrition in the coming years.”

As of 2015-16, more than a fifth (21 percent) of children in India suffer from wasting (low weight for height)—up from 20 percent in 2005-2006. Only three other countries in this year’s GHI—Djibouti, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan—show child wasting above 20 percent, and India’s child wasting rate has not shown any substantial improvement over the past 25 years. By contrast, the country has made considerable improvement in reducing its child stunting rate, down 29 percent since 2000, but even that progress leaves India with a relatively high stunting rate of 38.4.

Globally, the Central African Republic (CAR) has the highest score (reflecting the highest hunger level) of any country ranked in the report, and is the sole country in the Index’s “extremely alarming” category. CAR has the same score in 2017 as it did in 2000, suggesting any progress made in reducing hunger in the country in recent years has been reversed of late. Several other countries including Sri Lanka, Mauritania, and Venezuela also have higher GHI scores in 2017 than in 2008, after witnessing falling scores in the previous two decades.

“Conflict and climate related shocks are at the heart of this problem. We must build the resilience of communities on the ground, but we must also bolster public and political solidarity internationally.  The world needs to act as one community with the shared goal of ensuring not a single child goes to bed hungry each night and no-one is left behind.” said Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley

Despite recent setbacks, the report spotlights some areas of progress in the fight against global hunger. The level of hunger in developing countries decreased by 27 percent since 2000. Declines in average hunger at the regional or national levels obscure some grim realities though. The averages can mask lagging areas where millions are still hungry, demonstrating the need to hold governments accountable not only for investments in timely data but also for building resilience in communities at risk for disruption to their food systems from weather shocks or conflict.

Uneven hunger levels bring into sharp focus this year’s theme of ‘the inequalities of hunger’, which emphasizes the inequalities of social, economic and political power underlying nutritional inequalities. Groups with the least social, economic, and political power like women and girls, ethnic minorities, and the rural poor often also experience greater levels of poverty and hunger.

“With a GHI score that is near the high end of the serious category, it is obvious that a high GDP growth rate alone is no guarantee of food and nutrition security for India’s vast majority. Inequality in all its forms must be addressed now if we are to meet SDG 2 of Zero Hunger for everyone by 2030,” said Nivedita Varshneya, Welthungerhilfe Country Director India.

The GHI, now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators: undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. The 2017 report ranked 119 countries in the developing world, nearly half of which have “extremely alarming”, “alarming” or “serious” hunger levels.

More information can be found at: http://www.globalhungerindex.org/

Interpreting India’s Performance on the Global Hunger Index

 

Highlights of Recent IFPRI Food Policy Research in India

Source: (Flickr): Pallavi Rajkhowa, IFPRI
Source: (Flickr): Pallavi Rajkhowa, IFPRI

IFPRI began its enduring partnership with India nearly 40 years ago. In fact, IFPRI’s first Board of Trustees in 1975 included Vijay S. Vyas, Director of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, India. IFPRI and India’s partnership played a particularly important role following the Green Revolution when that partnership analyzed the necessary policies to both promote domestic food production and to encourage farmers to adopt new rice and wheat varieties. IFPRI’s studies on the Green Revolution in India showed that agricultural growth had a strong impact on poverty alleviation and that further attention to agricultural growth was necessary to reduce poverty. In the late 1970s, amid stagnant food production, weather-related crop losses, and an ever-growing population, the Indian government sought food security solutions that extended beyond food aid; technology and rural development played leading roles in the IFPRI-India working relationship during that period.

During the 1980s, IFPRI’s research focused on India’s agricultural sector, particularly on agricultural growth linkages to the nonagricultural economy; the impact of high-yielding rice varieties in South India; and instability in foodgrains production, food subsidies, dairy development, and livestock demand. Research conducted during the 1990s included studies on topics such as public expenditure and poverty in rural India, incentives and constraints in the transformation of Indian agriculture, and high-value agriculture. Research topics since the 2000s have expanded to include malnutrition, public investment, climate change, value chains, capacity strengthening, and biofortification. As of 2015, the Institute has produced more than 450 publications on India’s food security and collaborates with dozens of Indian institutions.

IFPRI receives continuous financial and logistical support from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Department of Agricultural Research and Education within the government of India and works alongside dozens of research collaborators in the country. This brochure highlights some of the key collaborations between IFPRI and its Indian partners, describing recent and ongoing work.

Read more from the brochure

Undernutrition Garners Little Attention in Indian Media

Undernutrition is an emergency in India, where almost half of all children under the age of three are underweight. However, even in the face of such a crisis, this issue garners little attention in Indian media.

POSHAN Media Fellows
POSHAN Media Fellows

To address the lack of nutrition reporting in India, POSHAN and OneWorld Foundation implemented the six-month OneWorld-POSHAN Fellowship on Maternal and Child Undernutrition from May–December 2013. Six journalists from various media outlets such as The New York Times, Dainik Jagran, The Hindu, Chapte Chapte, The Hindustan Times, and www.newsclick.in participated in the program.

On March 19th, POSHAN and OneWorld organized a workshop with the six media fellows to share their learnings from their reporting from the field. The workshop focused on their experiences and observations during the course of their travels to various parts of the country collectively preparing over 30 pieces on mother and child undernutrition.

Many fellows spoke about the huge problems they saw in the field with nutrition services for the poor. For example, Mukesh Kejriwal of Dainik Jagran presented photos exposing flaws with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme. One photo showed a broken-down Anganwadi centre without a roof. He spoke about the lack of commitment of officials at the centres that he visited, and how in one centre, the officials had locked up the materials that were meant to be used for the welfare of children.

Malavika Vyawahare from The New York Times spoke about how there is no proper compilation of nutrition data on which the government can actually base its work. She also spoke of an instance in which she saw a modern, electric weighing machine in an Anganwadi centre in a tribal district in Maharashtra, which was useless because that part of the country is not connected to the electricity grid.

Neha Dikshit, who wrote her articles for www.newsclick.in, focused on the fact that some of the government schemes meant to improve the plight of rural women and children have in fact been detrimental for them. She mentioned how a Haryana government scheme providing cash assistance to marriageable women led to teen marriages, deaths of pregnant girls, and parents started forced schools to give under-age certificates.

Pankaj Jaiswal, from The Hindustan Times, spoke about the existence of undernutrition in the so-called 'well fed' urban population. Thanking the fellowship program for raising his awareness on the issues, he said that he is likely to keep writing on the issue.

Freelance journalist Saadia Azim spoke about how migrants are facing the brunt of nutrition problems. During her travels to villages in Bengal, she found that poor diet haunted all migrants, regardless of caste, religion, or even region. For her, a huge issue was that nobody was even talking about malnutrition as an election issue.

The fellows concluded the meeting with a consensus on how much more the media needs to do in terms of reporting on nutrition. They stressed that the issue of undernutrition has an impact on national security and wellbeing of the country and thus needs to be taken up much more in the media and addressed by the government.

Learn more by visiting the OneWorld-POSHAN Fellowship on Maternal and Child Undernutrition site to read all the news articles.

New Abstract Digest on Maternal and Child Nutrition Research – Issue 7

We are pleased to release Issue 7 of our bi-monthly Abstract Digest on maternal and child nutrition. This issue features interesting publications examining nutrition from both a biological and political lens, in India and beyond. Highlights include:

Abstract Digest-Issue 07
Abstract Digest-Issue 07
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Abstract Digest-Issue 07

  • A special open-access issue of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences on integrating nutrition and early childhood development interventions
  • Two articles from Advances in Nutrition discussing 1) how nutrition research can become more useful in informing global nutrition guidelines (Stoltzfus 2014), and 2) arguing for the need to develop implementation science to enable stronger delivery of adequate nutrition to those in need (Habicht and Pelto 2014).
  • One study in Bio Medical Education identifying gaps in South Asian postgraduate nutrition programs to build capacity to address the current public health nutrition challenges (Khandelwal et al. 2014).
  • Two reviews, one providing an overview of the evidence-base for nutritional deficits in early life and greater risk for non-communicable diseases in later life (Langley-Evans 2014) and the other recommending investments in improving maternal autonomy to improve child nutritional status (Carlson et al. 2014).
  • Several articles focusing specifically on malnutrition in India, including on determinants of anemia (Anand 2013), vitamin A programming in India and its reach (Aguayo 2014), and management of severe acute malnutrition (Singh et al. 2014; Kumar et al. 2013).

 

IFPRI Hosts Policy Seminar on “Social Protection, Food Security and Nutrition” in New Delhi

Written by Suman Chakrabarti, Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute, New Delhi

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), organized a policy seminar on “Social Protection & Safety Net

Source: Pallavi Rajkhowa/IFPRI
Source: Pallavi Rajkhowa/IFPRI

Interventions” in the month of February in New Delhi. The seminar touched on the role of food and cash transfers in improving poverty, food security and nutrition, in global and regional contexts. All speakers were well received by the audience and the seminar was lively with an array of wide ranging questions and discussions.

The first speaker, John Hoddinott, Deputy Director at the Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division – IFPRI , Washington,  DC, pooled insights from recent studies in Ecuador, Niger, Uganda and Yemen, on social protection programs and their nutrition outcomes. He highlighted the relative advantages and drawbacks of cash, voucher and food transfers in terms of cost effectiveness, achievement of caloric intake increase and impact sufficiency to reduce chronic under-nutrition in young children. In addition, he shared very recent findings on the impact of combining behavioural change interventions with cash transfers in Bangladesh.

The second speaker, Avinash Kishore, Associate Research Fellow, IFPRI, New Delhi, shared insights from a working paper that investigates the impact of reforms in the Public Distribution System (PDS) of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, on the offtake of rice from fair price shops as well as on the reallocation of savings towards other food groups.  These findings are central in the context of India’s National Food Security Act (NFSA) which was enacted in 2013.  The NFSA lays out very similar PDS reforms in terms of price reductions for key cereals and increase in the population covered, accompanied with supply side corrections, as were enforced in the aforementioned states.

The third and final speaker, Reetika Khera, Assistant Professor, Economics, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, discussed her research on shifts in India’s PDS. She discussed various facets of interest within the PDS including coverage, leakage, implicit subsidies, exclusion errors, and nutritional impacts, among others.  The findings indicate an overall revival of the PDS in India albeit with high interstate variations. She concluded that there was a long way to go for improvements in the PDS, and emphasized that key reforms should focus on an expansion in the implicit subsidy given to households, incentives, computerization, and decentralization.

Issues and questions raised in the discussion period included:
- What is better in India’s context, cash or food? A balanced approach would be a contextualized response, where cash could be better for some regions and food for others.
- What might be the possible measures to control leakages in the PDS? Mechanisms to check leakages might be easier to enforce under a cash transfer paradigm with the use of IT.
-Targeting versus universalization of the PDS: Given the large targeting errors for AAYs, BPLs, and APLs, would a universalized PDS prove to be more effective?
- What is the role of the private sector in grain management? Can the private sector distribute grains more efficiently and cost effectively?
- What are the effects of transfers on households? How do they re-allocate savings from subsidies? What are the effects on women’s empowerment?

Presentation 1-Social safety nets, food security and nutrition

Presenation 2-Revival of the PDS Evidence and Explanations

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