Uploaded on October 27, 2021
Global Hunger Index and the Importance of Documentation of Socio-economic Indicators of Society
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
“Every 11 minutes, someone dies of hunger” - Oxfam
India's Global Hunger Index (GHI) slipped from last year's 94th position to 101th out of 116 countries this year. Every year, GHI report is released to "comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels." Categorised as "alarming," India has performed poorly as compared to its neighboring countries. The peer-reviewed report, published by Concern Worldwide and Welt Hunger Hilfe, is based on four metrics- undernourishment, wasting, stunting, and under-five mortality.
There have been many debates doing rounds since the release of the ranking. Some have shown concern over India's miserable performance, while some have outrightly denied the validity of the report. The Indian government has raised objections over the methodology employed in the report and has labeled it as "unscientific" and "devoid of ground reality." However, looking at the past data regarding socio-economic indicators of India, we can say that it has not come out of the blue. If we look at India's trend in women and child healthcare, it has repeatedly shown a downhill track. Even the government's own National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) data has registered worsening levels of child malnutrition. It is reported that children born between 2015 and 2019 are more malnourished than their preceding generations.
Accessing the root of the issue, one could gather India's failure in allocating and dispersing budget in public healthcare. India spends a mere 1.26 % of the total GDP on public healthcare, which is amongst the lowest spending across the world. To give a context on how inadequate the expenditure is, the U.S spends 16 % of its total GDP on healthcare. The National Health Policy in 2017 advised the government to increase the spending on healthcare to 2.5 % of the GDP by 2025. Furthermore, the Prime Minister Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment (POSHAN) Abhiyan, launched in 2017, aimed to focus on child and pregnant and lactating mothers' health and nutritional intake has taken a backseat. This year's Union budget has witnessed a marginal budgetary increase for Mission POSHAN 2.0, and still, only 0.57 of the total budget has been allocated towards funding the scheme. This nutritional crisis India is going through is a result of the lack of focused management and implementation of the policies and schemes, inequitable access to resources due to class and caste, lack of access to public health by the masses, an unreliable system of India's food security, etcetera.
Additionally, the pandemic accentuated the hunger crisis globally. At present, about 155 million people are at risk of food insecurity, and about 520,000 people have been pushed to the edge of starvation. Similarly, the dying health infrastructure that resulted in an absolute collapse of the state to tackle the pandemic is a testament to the deteriorating healthcare system in India. The World Economic Forum also had remarked on the global hunger and poverty triggered by the pandemic. And notwithstanding, global military spending increased by $51 billion during the pandemic. It projects a bleak picture of the authorities and stakeholders of our nation, who have their priorities set at 180 degrees from socially and economically securing the people.
This year's Global Hunger report is a cue for India to combat overburdened healthcare and defeat hunger and nutritional crises. The report should be seen as a wake-up call for the countries that have scored low on the list; the conversation around it should not lose its meaning in the discourse of the invalidity of the methodology used. Therefore, we can say documentation of social indicators of society published via different social organisations ensures a system of check and balance. Our institute is one such example. Since its inception in 1986, the Institute of Objective Studies has devoted its time and resources to document the social indicators for the smooth functioning of society. The main objective is to facilitate the duty of stakeholders and policymakers in order to prioritise and focus on the areas of concern. The data bank available at the organisation’s website, http://www.iosworld.org/content_multi.aspx?id=342, at no cost, has not only assisted researchers but also helped policymakers in order to highlight the critical domains to target. Besides, for better reach, these data are also printed on annual calendars published by the organisation. It is only by mainstreaming the data we can educate and aware the masses. Hence, unequivocally, documenting the data of social and cultural relevance has always assisted in the betterment of our society.