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Poor Food Security, Hunger Crisis Direct Threat To Indian Economy

India's position in 2020 was not good, however, this time it slipped to 101 from 94th and is behind its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Photo Credit : PTI

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In a major setback to Prime Minister Narendra Modi led Central Government, India has slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 of 116 countries, amid the aftermath of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, especially after the devastating second wave, which lead to loss of livelihood of several people. 

India's position in 2020 was not good, however, this time it slipped to 101 from 94th and is behind its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

The Indian government denied and slammed the report as shocking and the methodology used is "unscientific." However, if the ranking is real and India is facing a crisis on the ground level, it will further affect the economic growth of the country, which is recovering after the deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the estimates, the average annual economic losses from low weight, poor growth of children and micronutrient deficiencies account for 11 per cent of GDP in Asia and a loss of about $40 billion for India by 2030 due to under-nutrition.

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said, "In fact, this loss is greater than the loss experienced in the 2008–2010 financial crisis. Further, the Global Nutrition Report 2020 reports that India is among the 88 countries that are likely to miss global nutrition targets by 2025. Unless swift and targeted action is taken to address malnutrition in an equitable manner, India will fail to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030."

The report has termed the level of hunger in India "alarming," amid the possible speculations of the COVID-19 third wave, which can also make things worse for India. 

Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India, while talking about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic said, "The containment measures have put many families at risk by impacting the availability of nutritious food in large parts of the country due to disruptions in food systems and supply chains. The job losses especially for the migrants, poor urban and rural populations as well as other disadvantaged populations in India have led to a huge failure in entitlements and economic insecurity."

Talking about the GHI score of India, it has also been reduced to 28.8- 27.5 between 2012 and 2021 from 38.8 in 2000. 

The GHI calculates the score on the following indicators which are undernourishment:

Child wasting (the share of children under the age of 5 who are wasted, meaning, the children who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition). 

Child stunting (kids under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition)  

Child mortality (the mortality rate of children under the age of five).

“Even before the pandemic, India accounted for a third of the global burden of malnutrition. In fact, the recently published National Family Health Survey-5 2019-20 (phase I) which was undertaken before the pandemic reveals reversing trends in the prevalence of malnutrition, undernutrition, and anaemia in India. While all these evidence pertains to the pre-pandemic period, the nutrition scenario in the country continues to be threatened with disruptions in coverage of essential nutrition services and reduction in food security due to the impact of the pandemic,” Muttreja added.

The share of wasting among children in India increased to 17.3 per cent between 2016-2020,  from 17.1 per cent between 1998-2002, the report said. 

According to the report, "People have been severely hit by COVID-19 and by pandemic related restrictions in India, the country with the highest child wasting rate worldwide."

Neighbouring countries like Nepal (76), Bangladesh (76), Myanmar (71) and Pakistan (92) are also in the 'alarming' hunger category but have fared better at feeding their citizens than India, according to the report.

However, India has shown improvement in other indicators such as the under-5 mortality rate, prevalence of stunting among children and prevalence of undernourishment owing to inadequate food, the report said.

According to the report, the fight against hunger is dangerously off track. Based on the current GHI projections, the world as a whole -- and 47 countries in particular -- will fail to achieve a low level of hunger by 2030.

Food security is under assault on multiple fronts, it said, adding that worsening conflict, weather extremes associated with global climate change, and the economic and health challenges associated with the COVID19 pandemic are all driving hunger.

"Inequality -- between regions, countries, districts, and communities -- is pervasive and, (if) left unchecked, will keep the world from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) mandate to “leave no one behind," the report said.

Meanwhile, after poor ranking in the Global Hunger Index, India is ranked at 71st position in the Global Food Security (GFS) Index 2021 of 113 countries, behind its neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka in terms of food affordability. 

With 52.6 points, Pakistan scored better than India (50.2 points) in the category of food affordability. Talking about Sri Lanka, it was even better with 62.9 points, as per the global report by Economist Impact and Corteva Agriscience.