Global Hunger Index 2023: India reports highest child wasting rate; slips 4 notches on ranking

The country’s child wasting rate is higher than that of conflict-ridden Yemen at 14.4 per cent and Sudan at 13.7 per cent

By Arya Rohini
Published: Friday 13 October 2023
Representative photo: iStock__

India topped the list of countries with the highest child-wasting rate in the world, at 18.7 per cent, reflecting acute undernutrition, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2023 released recently.

GHI is a peer-reviewed annual report, jointly published by non-profits Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. Child wasting — one among the four indicators underlying GHI scores — refers to the share of children under age five who have low weight for their height.

The indicators — undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality — reflect deficiencies in calories (quantity) as well as in important micronutrients.

The country’s child wasting rate is higher than that of conflict-ridden Yemen (at 14.4 per cent) and Sudan at (13.7 per cent), which hold the second and third positions, respectively.

Moreover, India has been ranked at the 111th position out of 124 countries, with neighbouring Pakistan (102th), Bangladesh (81st), Nepal (69th) and Sri Lanka (60th) faring better than it in the index. The country slipped four notches from its 107th position in 2022.

Source: Global Hunger Index 2023.

India scored 28.7 on the GHI, classifying it under the ‘serious’ hunger category. Other countries in the same classification include Pakistan (26.6), Afghanistan (30.6), Zambia (29.3), Botswana (20) and Sudan (27).

The Union government, however, rejected the findings of the report, calling the methodology “an erroneous measure of hunger with serious methodological issues”.

Poshan Tracker, a mobile-based application rolled out by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, consistently reports a child wasting rate of less than 7.2 per cent each month, against the 18.7 per cent recorded in GHI, the Centre claimed in a press note released on October 12, 2023.

In India, the prevalence of undernourishment was recorded at 16.6 per cent and the under-five mortality rate was at 3.1 per cent, according to the report.

The report also pointed out it is critical to address the challenges faced by small farmers in India.

Children afflicted by wasting experience compromised immunity, are vulnerable to developmental delays and face a high mortality risk, especially in cases of severe wasting.

The report also noted that among Indian women aged 15 to 24 years, the prevalence of anaemia was at a staggering 58.1 per cent, slightly above Nigeria.

Low weight and height of mothers are associated with stunting and wasting in their children, and child undernutrition tends to occur in the same regions as maternal undernutrition, pointed out the report, citing UNICEF data.

Visualised by: Lalit Maurya

“Anaemia often occurs during pregnancy when the mother has insufficient iron intake, which can result in not only health risks for the mother but also anaemia for the infant,” it added, quoting the American Society of Hematology.

The prevalence of anaemia is high and persistent in many countries, and currently, no region of the world is on track to meet the 2030 target to halve the rate of anaemia in adolescent girls and women, the report added.

“The 2023 GHI shows that, after many years of advancement up to 2015, progress against hunger worldwide remains largely at a standstill,” the document pointed out.

As the effects of crises multiply and intensify, more and more people are experiencing severe hunger, with the situation expected to worsen throughout the year, it added.

South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are the global regions characterised by the most severe hunger levels, both holding a GHI score of 27, signifying a serious state of hunger.

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