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Global Hunger Index 2023

  • 13 Oct 2023
  • 12 min read

Source: IE

Why in News?

In the Global Hunger Index 2023, India ranked 111th out of 125 countries, indicating a serious level of hunger.

  • Neighboring countries, such as Pakistan (102nd), Bangladesh (81st), Nepal (69th), and Sri Lanka (60th), scored better than India.

What is the Global Hunger Index ?

  • About:
    • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a peer-reviewed report, published on an annual basis by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
    • The GHI is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels, reflecting multiple dimensions of hunger over time.
      • The GHI score is calculated on a 100-point scale reflecting the severity of hunger - 0 is the best score (implies no hunger) and 100 is the worst.

Note: Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to tackling poverty and suffering in the world’s poorest countries.

  • Welthungerhilfe is a private aid organization in Germany. It was established in 1962, as the German section of the "Freedom from Hunger Campaign".
  • Calculation:
    • Each country’s GHI score is calculated based on a formula that combines four indicators that together capture the multidimensional nature of hunger:
      • Undernourishment: The share of the population whose caloric intake is insufficient;
      • Child Stunting: The share of children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition;
      • Child Wasting: The share of children under the age of five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition; and
      • Child Mortality: The share of children who die before their fifth birthday, reflecting in part the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.
  • Alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG):
    • The prevalence of undernourishment is an indicator for SDG 2.1, focusing on ensuring access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food for all.
    • Child stunting and wasting rates are indicators for SDG 2.2, aiming to end all forms of malnutrition.
    • Reducing preventable child deaths is an SDG 3.2 goal.

What are the Key Takeaways from GHI 2023?

  • India's GHI Score:
    • Score Analysis:
      • India's GHI score 2023 stands at 28.7, categorized as "serious" on the GHI Severity of Hunger Scale.
        • This shows a slight improvement from its GHI 2015 score of 29.2, which was also deemed serious.
      • Also, compared to its alarming GHI scores of 38.4 in 2000 and 35.5 in 2008, India has made significant progress.
    • Related Data and References:
      • Child stunting is prevalent at 35.5% ( India's National Family Health Survey(NFHS) 2019-2021)
      • The prevalence of undernourishment in India is 16.6% ( State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report 2023 )
      • India's child wasting rate is a concerning 18.7% (India’s NFHS 2019-21), the highest among all countries in the report.
      • The under-five mortality rate stands at 3.1% (United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation January 2023 )
  • Global Hunger Trends:
    • According to the GHI 2023 report, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Chile, China are among the top ranked countries (i.e., low level of hunger) and Yemen, Madagascar, Central African Republic are the bottom.
    • The GHI 2023 score for the world is 18.3, considered moderate, showing minimal improvement since 2015.
      • The prevalence of undernourishment has risen from 572 million to approximately 735 million people since 2017.
    • The GHI attributed the stagnation to various crises, including climate change, conflicts, economic shocks, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war.
      • These crises have exacerbated social and economic inequalities and hindered progress in reducing hunger worldwide.

What is the Indian Government’s Response to GHI Report 2023?

  • Criticism of Methodology: The Ministry of Women and Child Development has raised concerns about the report's methodology, suggesting "serious methodological issues" and "malafide intent."
    • Data from the government's Poshan Tracker consistently shows child wasting prevalence below 7.2%, which contradicts the GHI's reported figure of 18.7%.
  • Focus on Child Health: The government noted that three out of the four GHI indicators pertain to children's health and may not provide a complete representation of the entire population.
  • Small Sample Size: The government expressed doubts about the accuracy of the "Proportion of Undernourished Population" indicator, as it is based on a small sample size opinion poll.
  • Complex Factors: The government's argument is that indicators like stunting and wasting are outcomes of various complex factors, including sanitation, genetics, environment, and food utilization, and are not solely attributable to hunger.
    • The government also pointed out that child mortality may not solely be an outcome of hunger, indicating that other factors are at play.

What are the Other Terms Related to Hunger?

Term Definition
  • It refers to Insufficient calorie intake to sustain a healthy life, as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • It is based on individual needs in terms of age, sex, stature, and physical activity.
  • It extends beyond calories and encompasses deficiencies in energy, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Undernutrition results from inadequate food intake in terms of both quantity and quality, poor nutrient utilization due to infections or illnesses, or a combination of these factors.
  • It is a distinct condition defined by the UN as occurring when specific conditions are met:
    • when at least 20% of the population faces severe food shortages,
    • acute child malnutrition rates exceed 30%,
    • Two out of 10,000 people die from starvation or malnutrition-related diseases daily.

What are the Factors Responsible for Hunger in India?

  • Socioeconomic Disparities and Poverty: Widespread poverty and socioeconomic disparities are fundamental determinants of hunger in India.
    • Poverty leads to inadequate food consumption and the inability to afford essential nutritional and healthcare services.
  • Hidden Hunger: India is experiencing a severe micronutrient deficiency (also known as hidden hunger).
    • There are several causes of this problem, including poor diet, disease, and a failure to meet micronutrient needs during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Inefficient Agricultural Practices and Food Distribution: Inefficiencies in agricultural practices, including suboptimal crop yields and post-harvest losses, also contribute to insufficient food availability.
    • Furthermore, subsequent leakages in food distribution and supply chain management restrict the flow of food to vulnerable populations, resulting in food scarcity and higher prices, which disproportionately affect the poor.
  • Gender Inequality and Nutritional Disparities: Gender-based disparities exacerbate the problem of hunger and malnutrition in India.
    • Women and girls often experience unequal access to food within households, receiving smaller portions or lower-quality diets.
    • This inequity, coupled with the demands of maternal and child care, exposes them to higher nutritional risks, leading to chronic undernutrition.
  • Climate Change and Environmental Stressors: India is susceptible to climate change-related environmental stressors, such as changing weather patterns, extreme weather events, and natural disasters.
    • These factors can disrupt agricultural production, leading to crop failures and food scarcity.
  • Lack of Audit for Nutritional Programmes: Although a number of programmes with improving nutrition as their main component are planned in the country, there is minimal or no nutritional audit mechanism at local governance level.

Way Forward

  • Social Audit and Awareness: Mandate social audits of the mid-day meal scheme in all districts, involving local authorities, alongside raising awareness on nutrition.
    • Utilize information technology for better program monitoring.
    • Establish community-driven nutrition education programs that raise awareness about balanced diets, food preparation, and the importance of nutrition in local languages, particularly targeting women and children.
  • PDS Enhancement: Revamp the Public Distribution System (PDS) to enhance transparency, reliability, and affordability of nutritious food, benefiting the economically disadvantaged.
  • Reducing Food Waste, Reducing Hunger: Address food wastage issues by improving warehousing and cold storage facilities.
    • According to the International Institute of Refrigeration, if developing countries had the same level of refrigeration infrastructure as developed countries, they would save 200 million tonnes of food or around 14% of their food supply, which can help in tackling hunger and malnutrition.
  • Mobile Nutritional Clinics: Implement mobile nutritional clinics that visit remote and underserved areas to provide health assessments, dietary counseling, and supplementary feeding for children and pregnant women.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year’s Question (PYQs)


Q. Which of the following is/are the indicator/indicators used by IFPRI to compute the Global Hunger Index Report? (2016)

  1. Undernourishment
  2. Child stunting
  3. Child mortality

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1, 2 and 3
(d) 1 and 3 only

Ans: (c)


Q: Food Security Bill is expected to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in India. Critically discuss various apprehensions in its effective implementation along with the concerns it has generated in WTO. (2013)

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