Hunger and Malnutrition

Hunger and Malnutrition


  • According to NFHS-5 data, every second Indian Women is Anaemic, every third child is stunted and malnourished and every fifth child is wasted.
  • According to FAO, Food Security Report for 2021, India ranks 101 out of 116 countries in Global Hunger Index 2021.
  • According to Global Nutrition Report 2021, Stunting among children in India is significantly higher at 30% compared to Asian average of 21.8%.
  • Of late, the low and middle income countries have pursued food fortification as one the strategies to tackle micronutrient malnutrition. Ex- Rice and Wheat are fortified with iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12.
  • Pilot project on the distribution of fortified rice in Maharashtra (Gadchiroli district) as part of targeted PDS was started. The programme has been a success in terms of preventing cases of anaemia from 58.9% to 29.5% in span of 2 years.
  • In Gujarat, an eight month long study on multiple micronutrient fortified rice intervention for schoolchildren (6-12 years) in 2018-19, found increased haemoglobin concentration, 10% reduction in anaemia prevalence and improved cognitive scores (by 11.3%).
  • According to WHO, Iron deficiency Anaemia is a major public health concern because it is responsible for 3.6% of disability adjusted life years (DALYs- years of life lost due to premature mortality and years lived with disability).
  • However, activists have expressed concern that excess iron overload from fortified rice has been dangerous for Jharkhand’s tribal population suffering from anaemia and thalassaemia.
  • Food fortification is a cost efficient complementary strategy to address micronutrient deficiencies.

What is Hunger?

According to FAO- “Hunger is an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy. It becomes chronic when the person does not consume a sufficient amount of calories (dietary energy) on a regular basis”

How it can be measured?

Measurement- Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe release Global Hunger Index (GHI) that aims to compare Hunger among various countries. It 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)

Where India Stands?

Position- India ranks 107 out of 121 countries (under “serious category”) on the Global Hunger Index 2022.

What objections has Indian Government raised?

  • 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”

What are the benefits of food fortification?

  • Helps in tackling Hidden Hunger (lack of micronutrients) and malnourishment.
  • Rice and Wheat being staple crops provide wider reach
  • Cost effective
  • No change in visual appearance and taste of food

What are the issues with fortification?

  • Hypervitaminosis (Very high storage of Vitamins) and Toxicity.
  • Nutrients don’t work in isolation, they need each other.
  • May benefit only few companies.
  • Fast food could be sold as fortified food by food companies in future.
  • Difficult to withdraw in future

(Credits- Food Fortification Resource Centre)

Way forward-

  • Detailed studies on adverse effects.
  • Focusing on dietary diversity in the long run.

NEWS- An Indian recipe to quell micronutrient malnutrition

Syllabus- Mains; GS-2; Hunger and Malnutrition