Global Hunger Index: More and more Indian children weigh too little for their height

Global study ranks India 100th of 119 counties, worse than Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Written by Shalini Nair | New Delhi | Updated: October 13, 2017 9:17 am
Global Hunger Index, india in Global Hunger Index, child mortality, child mortality India, child mortality rate in India, International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI, Child Development Services, National Health Mission, Health news, indian express Child wasting is one of four indicators in the GHI. In India, it has increased in India from 17.1% in 1998-02 to 21% in 2012-16. (Partha Paul/Express Photo)

India ranks a low 100th out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) released Thursday. On the GHI severity scale, India is at the high end of the “serious” category, owing mainly to the fact that one in every five children under age 5 is “wasted” (low weight for height).

With 21% of under-5 children suffering from wasting, the report notes, India is one of the very few countries that have made no strides over the last 25 years in checking the prevalence of this indicator. Only three other countries in GHI 2017 — Djibouti, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan — have a child-wasting prevalence over 20%.

Child wasting is one of four indicators in the GHI. In India, it has increased in India from 17.1% in 1998-02 to 21% in 2012-16. This is way above the global prevalence: 9.5% of all under-5 children suffer from wasting.

The release of the under-5 wasting trends comes days after the publication of a study, in The Lancet, which has found a high count of underweight children in age group 5-19 in India. Based on body mass index, the study put the prevalence of underweight children and adolescents at 22.7% among girls, and 30.7% among boys.

The GHI captures the multidimensional nature of hunger based on four indicators —undernourishment (share of the population with insufficient calorific intake), under-5 child wasting, under-5 child stunting (low height for age), and under-5 child mortality. The data analysed for each country to arrive at the 2017 GHI score pertains to the period 2012-16. The 2017 GHI has been jointly published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe.

India’s overall GHI score has improved from 38.2 in 2000 to 31.4 in 2017, but it is among the worst performers in South Asia, slightly better than only two other countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last year, India ranked 97th out of 118 countries; in 2015, it ranked 80th out of 104.

“Given that three-quarters of South Asia’s population reside in India, the situation in that country strongly influences South Asia’s regional score. At 31.4, India’s 2017 GHI score is at the high end of the serious category,” the report says.

On the other three indicators, however, India has reported an improvement, especially on child stunting. The report notes that the child stunting rate, while relatively high at 38.4%, has gone down over the year, from 61.9% in 1992.

Purnima Menon, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI, said that child wasting reflects acute under-nutrition caused by prolonged period of poor diet, repeated illnesses, and poor sanitation. “The improvement on the child stunting rate shows that children are born in a better condition than before. The high wasting rate, however, shows neglect in the first two years in terms of infant feeding, sanitation, and overall environment,” Memon said.

The report, citing from Menon’s research, points out that while India claimed a “massive scale-up” of two national nutrition programmes, the Integrated Child Development Services and the National Health Mission, it has failed to achieve adequate coverage.

“Areas of concern include (1) the timely introduction of complementary foods for young children (that is, the transition away from exclusive breastfeeding), which declined from 52.7% to 42.7% between 2006 and 2016; (2) the share of children between 6 and 23 months old who receive an adequate diet — a mere 9.6% for the country; and (3) household access to improved sanitation facilities — a likely factor in child health and nutrition — which stood at 48.4% as of 2016,” it states.

The 2017 GHI scores show that the level of hunger in the world has decreased by 27% from the 2000 level. Of the 119 countries assessed in this year’s report, on the GHI Severity Scale, one is in the extremely alarming range, 7 are in the alarming range, 44 in the serious range, and 24 in the moderate range.

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  1. A
    Oct 14, 2017 at 1:49 pm
    Dude our politician have no time to see these data, infact they will deny these facts. They have more time to promote violence against the communities, provoking to fight against each other instead been united people in name of religious outrage, spread hate . They have driven this condition of the country in worst as compared to previous 15-20 year were seen better days. This govt. outstanding, their leaders are arrogant, they have taken India into a backward phase. Their main agenda to divide the people and rule.
    1. S
      Oct 13, 2017 at 1:32 pm
      Modiji successfully brought down India from 54th position in 2014 to 100th position .. kudos .. now modi ji will feed the poor with his empty jumlas , bullet trains and statues he is building ... after a few years india will reach the bottom position of 199th and thats when the crook duo of feku and motu will say .. ACHHE DIN AAGAYE .....
      1. R
        Oct 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm
        Going through with this report of GLOBAL HUNGER INDEX , where our country been placed at lowest 100 position out of 119 countries in the world.....its same on our politicians , bureaucrats , billionaires who have looted the country and p ered its wealth lying idle with oveseas tax heavens .......everyone of them must be severely punished but question arises who will do it.??????? Any politician who will dare to do that cannot survive in such a rotten system....modi ji government is trying to do that by bring transparency in political system but our corrupt politicians are trying from tooth and nail to defame the government.....his agenda of NA KHAUNGA NA KHANE DUNGA may cost heavily in the next general election 2019 to his party and government.... my view , indian democracatic model has failed to give justice to the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden class of the society and must come out with some system of political governance in the coming years.....let’s hope For the best
        1. P
          Oct 13, 2017 at 11:42 am
          And with such a track record we want to take in more refugees! First let's food and clothe our own people.
          1. A
            Oct 14, 2017 at 3:48 am
            Agree...and more woe is added when India spend of Cow shelters and Statues...Saga is on.
          2. V
            Oct 13, 2017 at 8:15 am
            This is the poor condition of Indian children and there is an urgent need to address this problem. In the 70s and 80s, the US used to provide India with lots of grain and oil meant for alleviating malnutrition among women and children but now that India has stopped all that we should find alternatives to look after our children's health. Our current dispensation seems to be busy with sloganeering but out of sync with the ground reality.
            1. A
              Oct 13, 2017 at 8:57 am
              our current rulers are interested in gau, gober and gau mutra ! nothing else!
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