Criticism of FAO’s assessment of India is misplaced

Criticism of FAO’s assessment of India is misplaced

Context – India ranks 107 out of 121 countries (under “serious category”) on the Global Hunger Index 2022. Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe (two NGOs) release Global Hunger Index (GHI) that aims to compare Hunger among various countries. GHI comprises of four measures-

  • Child mortality rate – share of children who die under 5(1/3rd of GHI)
  • Stunting – Low height for age under 5(1/6th of GHI)
  • Child Wasting– Low weight for height under 5(1/6th of GHI)
  • Undernourishment – share of the population whose caloric intake is Insufficient (1/3rd of GHI)

However, Government of India raised some issues regarding the GHI. According to Indian Govt-

  • 3 out of the 4 variables used to calculate GHI are related to children under 5 and cannot be representative of the entire population.
  • 4th indicator of GHI, the proportion of undernourished population is “based on an opinion poll conducted on a very small sample size of 3000” by FAO’s FIES(Food Insecurity Experience sale) survey.
  • Stunting, Wasting and Under 5 mortality indicators are outcomes of complex interactions of various other factors like drinking water, sanitation, genetics, environment and utilisation of food intake apart from hunger.

Highlights-

  • Food security exists when all people at all the times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food the dietary needs and food preferences.
  • India’s rankings result from the use of the Indian government’s official statistics, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), which reveals the rates of acute malnutrition in children under 5.
  • Falling child mortality rates are not a consolation for the fact that a large number of children still suffer from the devastating consequences of acute and chronic malnutrition.
  • FAO’s FIES indicator was scrutinised and approved by UN statistical commission and UN economic and social council in 2015.
  • It is wrong to assume that the prevalence of undernourishment is simply based on survey data collected by FAO using Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES). Actually, it is computed using food consumption data, most recent available for India is from 2011.
  • There is also a lack of understanding regarding how FAO’s FIES data are processed to ensure valid, reliable measures of the severity of food insecurity of across countries.
  • Moreover, for the last 4 years, FAO has been actively collaborating with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation to include FIES data into official national data collection initiatives and to align national SDG indicators to global SDG monitoring framework (SDG 2- Zero Hunger).

(Credits- Business Standard)

What are the steps taken by government to combat hunger?

  • Government is running the largest food security programme in the world. National Food Security Act, 2013, provides coverage for nearly 2/3rdof the country’s total population covering 75% of rural and 50% of urban households.
  • In March 2020 government had announced the distribution of additional free-of-cost food grains (Rice/Wheat) to about 80 Crore National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries at the scale of 5 Kg per person per month under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY), over and above the regular monthly NFSA food grains.
  • The distribution has been done through State Governments, who on their own further supplemented the efforts of Central Government by providing pulses, edible oils and condiments etc to the beneficiaries.
  • Under Anganwadi Services, since Covid-19 pandemic, supplementary nutrition was provided to approximately 7.71 crore children up to the age of 6 years and to 1.78 crore pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • Under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna, more than 1.5 Crore registered women were provided Rs 5000/- on the birth of their first child for wage support and nutritious food during pregnancy and post-delivery period.
  • Mid-day Meal (MDM)scheme aims to improve nutritional levels among school going children from class 1 to 8 of government and government aided schools.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan targets to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls)and reduce low birth weight.

Way forward-

Project Sam Poorna of Assam offers a innovative model to combat Hunger. It can be replicated in other vulnerable areas across the country.

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