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Global Hunger Index Does Not Reflect India's True Picture: WCD Minister Smriti Irani

Global Hunger Index Does Not Reflect India's True Picture: WCD Minister Smriti Irani

In response to a question on malnourishment-related deaths in children, Irani said malnutrition is not a direct cause of death among children under five, but it can increase morbidity and mortality by reducing resistance to infections.

Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani
Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani PTI

The Global Hunger Index (GHI), which ranked India 107th among 121 countries in 2022, does not reflect India's true picture, the government said on Wednesday. In a written reply in Rajya Sabha, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said the report is neither appropriate nor representative of hunger prevalent in a country.

"Global Hunger Index (GHI) does not reflect India's true picture as it is a flawed measure of 'Hunger'. It should not be taken at face value as it is neither appropriate nor representative of hunger prevalent in a country," Irani said in the response to a question by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Manoj Kumar Jha. The minister said that out of the four indicators taken in account for the GHI, only one -- undernourishment -- is directly related to hunger.

"The two indicators, namely, Stunting and Wasting are outcomes of complex interactions of various other factors like sanitation, genetics, environment and utilisation of food intake apart from hunger which is taken as the causative/outcome factor for stunting and wasting in the GHI. Also, there is hardly any evidence that the fourth indicator, namely, child mortality is an outcome of hunger," Irani said.

In response to a question on malnourishment-related deaths in children, Irani said malnutrition is not a direct cause of death among children under five, but it can increase morbidity and mortality by reducing resistance to infections. Stating that malnourished children are more vulnerable to any infection than normal children, the minister said dis-aggregated data regarding child mortality due to malnutrition is not available.

As per Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report published by Office of Registrar General of India, Under-5 Mortality Rate (per 1000 live births) has reduced from 35 in 2019 to 32 in 2020. Mentioning the National Food Security Act, under which 75 percent of rural population and 50 percent of urban population are to be covered, Irani said against the intended coverage of 81.35 crore individuals at 2011 Census, the States/Union Territories have already identified 80.03 crore individuals.

The minister also mentioned government programmes like the Poshan Abhiyan, which focuses on nourishment of children, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers through Anganwadi. According to the data provided by the ministry, 18.7 percent women and 16.2 percent men in India have Body Mass Index below normal. As per National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), around 35.5 percent children under five of age are stunted, 19.3 percent are 'wasted', which means their weight for age proportion is low, 32.1 percent are underweight, and 3.4 percent are overweight. 

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