Some Food for Thought When None Left for People!

Posted by: Comments: 0 0 Post Date: November 5, 2016

Some Food for Thought When None Left for People!

October 23, 2016 loomed as another dark day for the family of Dharmendra and Usha, one more day to survive without any food. Previously numerous days had been spent in the same manner. But the body if Dharmendra it seemed had other plans and took on a different direction. He could not survive and his body succumbed to starvation.

“October 23, 2016 turned the last dark day for Dharmendra”.

In what is cited as the most populous state in the Republic of India, in one of its illustrious districts of Allahabad, a young man of 28 years of age died of starvation on October 23, 2016. He was barely survived by a wife, who had been suffering in the same state from past many days. While the local administration plays the blame game for the responsibility of his death, the fact shall remain that the jobless Dalit youth died of hunger. And all this could generate were a few columns in some newspapers across the country, putting the death as a lost statistic where it shall remain as an anomaly, hidden in some records, yet an anomaly in this age and land.

As India progresses leaps and bounds in the technology and forays ahead in the defence sector, the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI) in its figures presented for 118 countries has ranked India at number 97. Before moving on to the statistics and the workings of the Global Hunger Index, lets begin by covering the basics. 

What is Hunger?

Hunger is a global, multidimensional and complex phenomenon that has been observed as a global concern, as reflected through the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG) which is Zero Hunger.  Hunger can basically be understood as the condition of distress caused due to the lack of food. FAO defines food deprivation, as the consumption of lesser than 1800 kilocalories a day which is the minimum quantity required to live a productive and healthy life.  While the direct causes for hunger can be attributed to the natural (famine, drought), the basic ones are man-made. The conditions that lead to this situation are mostly the result of man-made actions that can thus be addressed in the same manner, as it is a known fact that the world produces adequate amount of food that can feed the global population.

Other definition associated with the concept of hunger is of malnutrition, which translates into two conditions of undernutrition and over nutrition respectively, leading to insufficient, excessive or imbalanced consumption of nutrients. Largely, undernutrition is associated with malnutrition which signifies deficiencies in any or all of the given – energy, protein, or essential vitamins and minerals.  It is the result of inadequate intake of food in terms of either quantity or quality, poor utilization of nutrients due to infections or other illnesses or a combination of these factors.

Global Hunger Index

Global Hunger Index is a tool that has been designed to track and measure the global, national and regional levels of hunger (International Food Policy and Research Institute, 2016). As it reports the statistics related to hunger across the world, GHI acts as a medium to assess the levels of hunger (Progress or lack of it), combatting efforts and provides an understanding about the issue, thus raising awareness of it. The GHI includes a thematic focus wherein the focus of 2016 was Zero Hunger.

The 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI) has been calculated for 118 countries that reflects hunger levels during the period from 2011 to 2016. As Hunger is a complex problem, with a multidimensional nature and various forms, therefore the four component indicators are used in one index. The scores on the index reflect the nutrition situation of the population as a whole, and along with that also of children (vulnerable subset) and thereafter combines independently measured indicators so as to reduce the effects of random measurement errors.

Four component indicators are :

  1. Under-nourishment – Proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the population (reflecting share of population with insufficient caloric intake)
  2. Child Wasting – Proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from wasting (low weight for their height, reflecting acute under-nutrition)
  3. Child Stunting – Proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from stunting (low height for their age, reflecting chronic under-nutrition)
  4. Child Mortality – the Mortality rate of children under the age of five (partially reflecting the fatal synergy of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).

Inclusion of such measures makes it a comprehensive index, and the data for 2016 GHI shows that level of hunger in developing countries as a group has fallen by 29 percent. While the levels may have declined, it has been so in a skewed manner. Regionally, Africa (South of Sahara) and South Asia remain the regions with the highest levels of hunger. Among these, India has been ranked 97th among the 118 countries, with a GHI score of 28.5, putting it in the upper range of serious category.

Dissecting this score further we see that under the indicator of Undernourishment, the proportion of undernourished in the population is 15.2% reflecting the percentage of population that is not getting the required caloric intake. The other three indicators associated with child health care in a similar manner. The indicator for child wasting of the prevalence of wasting in children under the age of five year, reflecting acute under-nutrition has a score of 15.1% . The indicator for child stunting has the highest prevalence with about 38.7% and the indicator for the under-five mortality rate has the score of 4.8%.

These scores may reflect an improvement than the past year for every indicators, the numbers are still an important concern that needs to be addressed as the report also suggests that even when the hunger levels decline at the rate that they have in the past years as measured in GHI, the scores on hunger would still remain in the moderate to alarming category. Moreover at this rate the Sustainable Goal of achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 shall remain a pipeline dream.

By: Shikha Rana, Research Executive – DevInsights

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