India has a “serious” hunger problem and has slipped three spots on the Global Hunger Index 2017, ranking behind countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Iraq and North Korea, the International Food Policy Research Institute said on Thursday. India, which was placed at 97th position in 2016, has now been ranked 100th out of 119 countries in 2017. It has the third highest Global Hunger Index score in all of Asia – Pakistan has been ranked 106th and Afghanistan is at 107th position.

India’s poor score at 31.4 also affects that of South Asia, as three-quarters of the region’s population resides in India. “India’s 2017 GHI score is at the high end category of the serious category,” it said.

The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators – undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.

Higher child wasting rate

More than one-fifth of the children in India under the age of five weigh too little for their height and over a third are short for their age, the report said. As per the 2015-2016 survey, nearly 21% children in India suffer from wasting – low weight against their height reflecting under-nutrition. Only three other countries have child wasting above 20% in this year’s index – Djibouti, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan.

Source: Global Hunger Index 2017
Source: Global Hunger Index 2017

Government programmes

However, India has made progress in other areas, for example, the child stunting rate in the country, which is still relatively high, has come down nearly 29%, to 38.4%, since 2000.

“Even with the massive scale up of national nutrition-focused programmes in India, drought and structural deficiencies have left large number of poor in India at risk of malnourished in 2017,” IFPRI director (South Asia) PK Joshi said. “It is welcoming that India has developed and launched an action plan on ‘undernourishment free India’ by 2022. The action plan shows stronger commitment and greater investments in tackling malnutrition in the coming years.”

Africa has the worst score

The Central African Republic has the highest GHI score and has been categorised as “extremely alarming”. It is followed by Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Zambia. Fourteen countries, including China, Peru, Brazil, Panama and Azerbaijan, have made significant improvements since 2000, the report said.

“According to 2017 GHI scores, the level of hunger in the world has decreased by 27 percent from the 2000 level,” IFPRI said in its report.