In the latest report released by the annual Global Hunger Index (GHI)—which measures and tracks hunger at global, national and regional levels—India ranks an abysmal 102 out of 117 countries, thereby facing ‘serious’ levels of hunger. The 14th edition of the report—jointly published by international humanitarian organisations Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe—showed that India did just marginally better than where it stood last year (103 out of 119), translating to the fact that the country continues to be ravaged by food deprivation.
Since 2000, the GHI has been mapping hunger to achieve what they call “Zero Hunger by 2030”, a Sustainable Development Goal developed by the United Nations. This is also why high-income countries are not included in the GHI. A low score in this index would mean a higher rank and a better performance in terms of curbing the country’s hunger problem. However, even as India ranks poorly (and especially worse among all BRICS countries as well as South Asia), the report highlights a rather bleak look at how hunger and undernutrition are faring worldwide.
Some of the key points show that hunger is the highest in regions of South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara. Countries like Chad, Madagascar, Yemen, and Zambia are in the ‘alarming’ category, while the Central African Republic is at rock bottom, with ‘extremely alarming’ hunger levels. Our neighbours rank better than India though they’re in the ‘serious’ hunger category too: Pakistan is at 94, Bangladesh at 88, Nepal at 73, Sri Lanka at 66 in this year's GHI report.
“The 2019 GHI shows that multiple countries have higher hunger levels now than in 2010, and approximately 45 countries are set to fail to achieve low levels of hunger by 2030,” stated a joint statement from Mathias Mogge of Welthungerhilfe and Dominic MacSorley of Concern Worldwide. “Conflict, inequality, and the effects of climate change have all contributed to persistently high levels of hunger and food insecurity around the world.”
The GHI measures the brevity of hunger through four main indications: Undernourishment (which translates to inadequate food availability), child wasting (which is calculated by the share of children under five years of age who have low weight for their height), child stunting (calculated by children under the age of five who have low height for their age) and child mortality (which reflects both inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environment and measured through the mortality rate of children under the age of five).
This year’s report also draws heavy attention to the impact of climate change on hunger. “Human actions have created a world in which it is becoming ever more difficult to adequately and sustainably feed and nourish the human population. Ever-rising emissions have pushed average global temperatures to 1°C above pre-industrial levels,” the report stated. “Climate change is affecting the global food system in ways that increase the threats to those who currently already suffer from hunger and undernutrition.”
So critical is the threat of climate change on hunger and undernourishment that the report acknowledges that only large-scale action and radical transformation can reduce the crisis.
“It is a terrible global indictment that after decades of sustained progress in reducing global hunger, climate change and conflict are now undermining food security in the world’s most vulnerable regions,” said Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her introductory statement for the report. “With the number of hungry people rising from 785 million in 2015 to 822 in 2018, we can no longer afford to regard the 2030 Agenda and Paris Climate Agreement as voluntary and a matter for each member state to decide on its own.”
Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.