Non-government organisation Oxfam India said India ranking 101st position in the Global Hunger Index is "unfortunately" a reflection of the actuality where hunger has accentuated since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted.
Oxfam added that the suggested undernutrition is not new and could be ascertained from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data as well. It informs that the data between 2015 and 2019 shows that a large number of Indian states ended up reversing the gains made on child nutrition parameters.
The report, jointly prepared by Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organisation Welt Hunger Hilife, termed the hunger level in India as "alarming". India's GHI score fell to 27.5 in 2021 in comparison to 38.8 recorded in 2000.
“This loss of nutrition should be of concern because it has intergenerational effects, to put it simply - the latest data shows that in several parts of India, children born between 2015 and 2019 are more malnourished than the previous generation,” said CEO of Oxfam India, Amitabh Behar.
BMI below global standards
Oxfam added that there could be massive negative consequences for not arresting the high levels of malnutrition. This could potentially put the adult population and children at risk. It informed that the body mass index (BMI) of a quarter of teenage and middle-aged women in the country were below the global standard norm. Additionally, more than half of women in India suffer from anaemia. Further, a quarter of teenage and middle-aged men showed signs of iron and calcium deficiencies as per the latest NFHS.
India ranked 101st among 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2021 behind neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2020, the sovereign ranked 94th. The Ministry of Women and Child Development called the development "shocking" and questioned the ranking rationale. It argued that ranking was based on an FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) estimate on the proportion of the undernourished population, which is "devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues''.
Addressing shortfalls in the country's POSHAN (Prime Minister's Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment) scheme, which increased allocation to its successor POSHAN 2.0, Oxfam said the scheme has languished owing to poor funding which is the result of clubbing up with other schemes within the health budget. It added that the implementation too has been worse.
Oxfam informs that only 0.57 per cent of the current budget was allocated towards funding the actual POSHAN scheme. The amount for child nutrition dropped by 18.5 per cent compared to 2020-21.