Sunday, October 14, 2007

Indians hungrier than most of the developing world- Global Hunger Index 2007

US based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released a 60-page report, titled "The Challenge of Hunger 2007", that uses a measurement tool known as the Global Hunger Index to rank 118 countries on their progress towards meeting the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG); reducing extreme poverty and hunger by 50 percent and the fourth reducing child mortality by two-thirds. (There are 8 MDGs)

Global Hunger Index 2007 ranks India 94th of the 118 countries behind China and Pakistan. Nine of the ten countries with the highest levels of hunger are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although India has fared poorly on the index, it is expected to reach the two MDG goals by 2015.

This index provides a particularly comprehensive measure of global hunger because it ranks countries on three leading indicators and combines them into one. The three indicators are: child malnutrition, child mortality, and estimates of the proportion of people who are calorie deficient. By combining these indicators, the index considers the food supply situation of the total population. It takes into account the special vulnerability of children to nutritional deprivation including its most tragic consequence; death.

The report claims that the slow progress on alleviating hunger and poverty are in part due to the lagging economic growth in the Indian agricultural sector and discrimination towards lower castes and ethnic minorities that have provided them with less educational and labor opportunities. Interestingly it attributes the practice in some parts of India where the male family members eat first and women make do with the leftovers as one of the cultural habits contributing to malnutrition. (Children of undernourished and anaemic mothers have a higher risk of being born underweight)

The United Nations' World Food Program claims that "nearly 50 percent of the world's hungry live in India, a low-income, food-deficit country. Around 35 percent of India's population is considered food-insecure, consuming less than 80 percent of minimum energy requirements."

What causes the persistence of food deprivation in the country that shows tremendous growth and surplus food stockpiles? Either the food production and/or availability are failing the people (Food Security) or the people that are hungry cannot afford to the buy the food that is available (Financial Security).

If it can be argued that these are the root causes of hunger, then a society that ensures minimal financial security and provides food security through a well governed public distribution system, hunger could possibly be eradicated.

Read more on how I think the present system in India can be fixed or changed to be able to feed India's hungry at "India Indeed - Indepth"

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