Global Hunger Index 2020


The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels. GHI scores are calculated each year to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger. The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger, provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions, and call attention to those areas of the world where hunger levels are highest and where the need for additional efforts to eliminate hunger is greatest.

How Are The GHI Scores Calculated?

GHI scores are calculated using a three-step process that draws on available data from various sources to capture the multidimensional nature of hunger (Figure A.1).

First, for each country, values are determined for four indicators:

  1. UNDERNOURISHMENT: the share of the population that is undernourished (that is, whose caloric intake is insufficient);
  2. CHILD WASTING: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition);
  3. CHILD STUNTING: the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (that is, who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and
  4. CHILD MORTALITY: the mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).

Second, each of the four component indicators is given a standardized score on a 100-point scale based on the highest observed level for the indicator on a global scale in recent decades.

Third, standardized scores are aggregated to calculate the GHI score for each country, with each of the three dimensions (inadequate food supply; child mortality; and child undernutrition, which is composed equally of child stunting and child wasting) given equal weight (the formula for calculating GHI scores is provided in Appendix B).

100-Point GHI Severity Scale

  • This three-step process results in GHI scores on a 100-point GHI Severity Scale, where 0 is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst.
  • In practice, neither of these extremes is reached.
  • A value of 0 would mean that a country had no undernourished people in the population, no children younger than five who were wasted or stunted, and no children who died before their fifth birthday.
  • A value of 100 would signify that a country’s undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality levels were each at approximately the highest levels observed worldwide in recent decades.
  • The GHI Severity Scale shows the severity of hunger – from low to extremely alarming – associated with the range of possible GHI scores.

The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed annual report, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.

What Is Meant By Hunger

The problem of hunger is complex, and different terms are used to describe its various forms.

Hunger is usually understood to refer to the distress associated with a lack of sufficient calories.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines food deprivation, or undernourishment, as the consumption of too few calories to provide the minimum amount of dietary energy that each individual requires to live a healthy and productive life, given that person’s sex, age, stature, and physical activity level.

Undernutrition goes beyond calories and signifies deficiencies in any or all of the following: energy, protein, and/ or essential vitamins and minerals. Undernutrition is the result of inadequate intake of food in terms of either quantity or quality, poor utilization of nutrients due to infections or other illnesses, or a combination of these factors.

These, in turn, are caused by a range of factors, including household food insecurity; inadequate maternal health or childcare practices; or inadequate access to health services, safe water, and sanitation.

Malnutrition refers more broadly to both undernutrition (problems caused by deficiencies) and overnutrition (problems caused by unbalanced diets, such as consuming too many calories in relation to requirements with or without low intake of micronutrient-rich foods).

In this report, “hunger” refers to the index based on four component indicators. Taken together, the component indicators reflect deficiencies in calories as well as in micronutrients.

India’s Performance In The Hunger Index

  • India ranked 94 among 107 nations in the Global Hunger Index 2020 and is in the ‘serious’ hunger category.
  • Last year, India’s rank was 102 out of 117 countries.
  • The neighbouring Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan too are in the ‘serious’ category but ranked higher than India in this year’s hunger index. While Bangladesh ranked 75, Myanmar and Pakistan are in the 78th and 88th position.
  • Nepal in 73rd and Sri Lanka in 64th position are in ‘moderate’ hunger category, the report showed.
  • 14 per cent of India’s population is undernourished.
  • India recorded a 37.4 per cent stunting rate among children under five and a wasting rate of 17.3 per cent.
  • The under-five mortality rate stood at 3.7 per cent.
  • The data shows that India’s score has decreased consistently, a positive sign in this ranking, from 32.2 in 2010 to 31.1 in 2018 and last year the score was 30.3. In the 2020 report, India’s score stood at 27.2. Going by this pace of progress, it is likely to take some more years for India to be in the “moderate” category.
  • The data from 1991 through 2014 for Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan also showed that stunting was concentrated among children from households facing multiple forms of deprivation, including poor dietary diversity, low levels of maternal education and household poverty.

 Wasting in children is the condition in which they have “low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition”.

Drop In Under-Five Mortality
  • However, there has been a drop in under-five mortality rates in the country.
  • “India – the region’s most populous country – experienced a decline in under-five mortality in this period, driven largely by decreases in deaths from birth asphyxia or trauma, neonatal infections, pneumonia, and diarrhea,” stated the report.

Worldwide, no country featured in the “extremely alarming” category. Three countries – Chad, Timor-Leste and Madagascar – featured in the “alarming” category.

Policy Recommendations

Make food systems work better for people and the planet

  • To support smallholder farmers in becoming sustainable and diversified producers, governments, donors, the private sector, and NGOs must seek to improve those farmers’ access to agricultural inputs and extension services, coupling local and indigenous agricultural knowledge with new technologies.
  • Local and regional food markets should be strengthened, especially through support for farmers to organize themselves, fair farm-gate prices, and better links between rural and urban areas.
  • Food should be priced not only by its weight or volume but also by its nutrient density, its freedom from contamination, and its contribution to ecosystem services and social justice. To achieve this, governments and stakeholders should educate the public about the importance of these attributes and require appropriate labeling. To curb the spread of agricultural pests and diseases, governments must promote sound biosecurity practices throughout value chains.
  • All countries must promote, develop, and implement circular food economies—that is, economies that recycle resources and materials, regenerate natural systems, and eliminate waste and pollution.

Improve how food systems are governed

  • Governments must hold food system actors legally accountable for respecting human rights and protecting the environment throughout their value chains as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • Governments and investors must adopt integrated land-use planning and ensure security of land tenure, especially for marginalized groups, in line with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security.
  • Governments must strengthen and incentivize local and participatory governance that incorporates marginalized groups, including peasants, indigenous groups, youth, and women.

Expand social investments for resilience

  • Governments must build up social protection systems, including universal health coverage and social security, and provide job training, especially for rural youth and the urban poor. They should expand access to maternal and child health care, as well as education on healthy diets and child feeding practices.
  • Governments should prepare and implement holistic plans to ensure accessible local and national water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) systems, which are crucial to people’s health.
  • Governments, donors, and NGOs must work with organizations trusted and monitored by communities to ensure social protection programs function optimally and fairly and promote gender equity and social cohesion.

Make emergency and long-term development interventions more equitable and sustainable

  • Governments, donors, private actors, and NGOs should carefully prepare and coordinate their responses to overlapping food and health crises and work with community organizations to make sure interventions are culturally acceptable, reach the most vulnerable, and preserve local ecosystems.
  • Governments must treat the production and supply of food as essential services and guarantee safe working environments in those sectors. They must ensure equitable access to emergency assistance for both human and animal diseases, including new technologies such as medical supplies.
  • To support local food supply chains, donors must continue to untie food aid from the requirement that recipient authorities acquire donor-country goods and services. Furthermore, and whenever feasible, humanitarian and development actors should provide assistance in the form of cash and voucher assistance.
  • To track and address hunger, governments must produce data that are timely, comprehensive, and disaggregated by income, subnational location, and gender.

Strengthen international cooperation and regulations

  • Trade inequities, such as high-income countries’ nontariff trade barriers, must be reduced. Governments’ trade policies should align with development goals and create market incentives for sustainable food economies.
  • Existing human rights-based multilateral mechanisms and international standards, such as the Committee on World Food Security, must be strengthened to support inclusive policy making and sustainable food systems.
  • Governments must use upcoming opportunities, including the UN Food Systems Summit, to reinforce their commitments to equitable and sustainable development.

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