India is among 29 countries with the highest levels of hunger, stunted children and poorly fed women, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s “Global Hunger Index 2010” released on Monday.
Despite a strong economy that was last week predicted to overtake China’s within three years by The Economist magazine, India ranked 67th among 85 countries in terms of access to food.
The report points to widespread hunger in a country that is the world’s largest producer of milk and edible oils, and the second-largest producer of wheat and sugar.
The country has a high “hunger score” of 24.1 and ranks behind all its neighbours, barring Bangladesh. Values between 20 and 29.9 on the index denote an “alarming” hunger situation.
Globally, the world is nowhere near meeting the target of the UN’s goal of halving the proportion of hungry people.
India also runs the world’s largest free-meal programme for school-going children. Yet, the 2010 hunger report reveals that more than 90 per cent of the world’s stunted children (whose height is low for their age) live in Asian countries, such as India and Bangladesh, apart from some Africa countries.
The highest regional hunger indices — suggesting the worst performers —are almost the same for South Asian countries, such as India, and Sub-Saharan African nations, such as Congo.
India is among countries with “hunger levels considerably higher that their gross national income per capita would suggest”. “It’s kind of ironic,” Ashok Gulati, Asia director of the Washington-based IFPRI said.
The IFPRI hunger index —complied in partnership with German NGO Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide —ranks countries on three equally weighted indicators: the proportion of undernourished, the proportion of underweight children under five, and the child mortality rate.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines hunger as the consumption of fewer than 1,800 kilocalories a day — the minimum required to live a healthy and productive life.