World Food Day: South Asian countries have 'serious' hunger levels

15.2 per cent of India's population is malnourished which is much more than China where 8.8 per cent of the population is malnourished. Photograph:( AFP )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Oct 15, 2016, 02.19 PM (IST)

South Asian nations have some of the highest hunger levels in the world, Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2016 has revealed. 

The overall score for South Asia in the 100-point scale is 29, just a notch below Sub-Saharan Africa's 30 which put them in the category of countries with "serious" hunger levels.

The index, a tool for measuring progress and failures in the global fight against hunger, ranks countries on the parameters of undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting (low weight for height) and child stunting (low height for age). International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) produces the annual index along with aid agencies Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.

At 97, India which has a GHI score of 28.5, is among the 43 countries with "serious" hunger levels. It is worse off than Nepal (21.9), Sri Lanka (25.5) and Bangladesh (27.1) which rank at 72, 84 and 90. 

In India, 15.2 per cent of the total population is malnourished which is much more than China where 8.8 per cent of the population is malnourished. China also has an overall score of 29 and a GHI score of 7.7.

At 107, Pakistan's performance is worst than most of its South Asian neighbours with 22 per cent of the country's population remaining undernourished.

Myanmar, which holds the 75th position, is among the 25 countries which have reduced their GHI scores by over 50 per cent since 2000.
Poverty, unemployment, lack of sanitation and safe drinking water, and lack of effective health care are the main reasons why India fares so poorly. Also, despite the fact that India has two of the biggest child nutrition programmes, the ICDS and the mid-day meal, the share of under-5 children who are "wasted" is about 15 per cent while the share of children who are "stunted" is 39 per cent. 
"We have the technology, knowledge, and resources to achieve (zero hunger). What is missing is both the urgency and the political will to turn commitments into action," says Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide. The 2016 report ranked 118 developing countries. The parameters of wasting and stunting were introduced for the first time this year.

Seven countries, including the Central African Republic, Chad and Zambia, have "alarming" GHI score of 35-49.9.

World leaders last year agreed on a 2030 deadline for ending global hunger as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(WION with inputs from agencies)