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Daily-current-affairs / 13 Oct 2023

India's Alarming Child Wasting Rate: Unveiling the Challenges and Solutions : Daily News Analysis


Date : 14/10/2023

Relevance: GS Paper2 - Social Justice- Hunger

Keywords: The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2023, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), National Food Security Act, 2013, PM Poshan Scheme


The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2023 has revealed that India has the highest child-wasting rate in the world, at 18.7 percent, reflecting acute undernutrition among children under the age of five. The GHI, a peer-reviewed annual report jointly published by non-profits Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, uses four key indicators: undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality, to assess a country's hunger situation. Child wasting specifically refers to the share of children who have low weight for their height.

What is hunger?

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines hunger as the habitual (or chronic) consumption of too few calories to provide the minimum dietary energy an individual requires to live a healthy and productive life. It is an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy. It is one of the significant manifestations of poverty.

Key points from the report:

  • India's Child Wasting Rate: India's child-wasting rate of 18.7 percent is higher than that of Yemen (14.4 percent) and Sudan (13.7 percent), which hold the second and third positions, respectively.

  • Overall GHI Ranking: India is ranked at the 111th position out of 124 countries in the GHI 2023. This is a drop of four from its 107th position in 2022. Neighboring countries, such as Pakistan (102nd), Bangladesh (81st), Nepal (69th), and Sri Lanka (60th), outperformed India in the index.
  • GHI Score: India scored 28.7 on the GHI, classifying it under the 'serious' hunger category. Other countries in the same classification include Pakistan (26.6), Afghanistan (30.6), Zambia (29.3), Botswana (20), and Sudan (27).
  • Other Findings: The report highlighted the prevalence of undernourishment in India at 16.6 percent and the under-five mortality rate at 3.1 percent. It also pointed out the critical challenges faced by small farmers in India.
  • Anaemia: The report noted a high prevalence of anemia among Indian women aged 15 to 24 years, at 58.1 percent, slightly above Nigeria. Low weight and height of mothers are associated with stunting and wasting in their children.
  • Global Hunger Situation: The 2023 GHI highlighted that global progress against hunger has remained largely at a standstill after years of advancement up to 2015. Severe hunger levels are increasing, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where both regions have a GHI score of 27, signifying a serious state of hunger.

  • Government Response: The Indian government rejected the report's findings, calling the methodology "an erroneous measure of hunger with serious methodological issues." The government referred to the Poshan Tracker, a mobile-based application, which reported a child-wasting rate of less than 7.2 percent each month, in contrast to the 18.7 percent recorded in the GHI.

What are the Causes of Hunger In India?

  1. Poverty: Hunger is a direct consequence of poverty. Poor living conditions and limited access to food result in malnutrition, especially in overpopulated rural areas with limited resources.
  2. Gender Inequality: Girls often suffer more due to patriarchal mindsets, as they are considered secondary and are typically the last to have access to food in impoverished families. Gender inequality also leads to limited access to education and mid-day meals for girls.
  3. Poor Governance: Corruption is a significant obstacle to eliminating hunger. Inadequate awareness among the population exacerbates this issue. For example, inconsistent food distribution, diversion of grains to the open market for profit, and the sale of poor-quality grains in ration shops contribute to the problem.
  4. Unidentified Hunger: Misclassification of households as above or below the poverty line, combined with the distribution of poor-quality grains, results in reduced food consumption.
  5. Hidden Hunger: Micronutrient deficiency, resulting from poor dietary choices, disease, and inadequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation, leads to hidden hunger.
  6. Lack of Maternal Knowledge: Mothers often lack adequate understanding of nutrition, breastfeeding, and parenting, which is a concerning issue.
  7. Resource Wastage and Climate Change: Resource wastage, as well as the effects of climate change, disproportionately affects lower-income populations who are less able to adapt to changing circumstances. Climate change can lead to desertification, soil erosion, water scarcity, and extreme weather events, all of which impact the poor and contribute to hunger.
  8. Natural Disasters: Weather extremes, such as droughts and floods, can lead to hunger crises by destroying crops and leaving vulnerable populations in dire straits.

Government initiatives to tackle hunger and malnutrition in India

  1. National Nutrition Mission (NNM), Poshan Abhiyan: Initiated in 2018 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, NNM aims to reduce undernutrition and improve the nutritional status of children in the country.
  2. National Food Security Act, 2013: This act legally entitles up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)
  3. Eat Right India Movement: An outreach initiative organized by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to encourage citizens to make healthier food choices.
  4. Zero Hunger Program: Launched in October 2017, this program aims to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in India by 2030. It involves interventions on farms, nutrition-focused farming systems, zero hunger training, and the establishment of biofortified plant genetic gardens.
  5. Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY): PMMVY is a Centrally Sponsored Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme that provides a cash incentive of ₹5,000 directly to the bank or post office accounts of pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  6. Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Scheme (PM Poshan Scheme): This school meal program is designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children across the nation.

What steps can be taken for the elimination of hunger in India?

Reducing hunger in India requires a multi-faceted approach that involves addressing the root causes of hunger and malnutrition. Some potential ways forward are:

  • Addressing poverty: Improving economic conditions and reducing poverty levels through job creation and better access to education.
  • Improving public distribution systems: Strengthening the public distribution system to ensure that food is distributed equitably and efficiently.
  • Increasing agricultural productivity: Enhancing agricultural productivity through better irrigation, improved seeds, and better technology can help increase food production and availability.
  • Promoting dietary diversity: Encouraging the consumption of a more diverse range of foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, and protein-rich foods.
  • Focusing on maternal and child health: Improving maternal and child health by promoting breastfeeding, adequate nutrition, and immunization.
  • Addressing gender inequality: Reducing gender inequality and promoting education for girls can help improve their nutrition and reduce malnutrition.
  • Strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems: Establishing effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure that nutritional programs are effectively and efficiently implemented.


India's high child-wasting rate, as revealed in the Global Hunger Index 2023, underscores the urgent need for a concerted effort to combat hunger and malnutrition in the country. While the government's rejection of the report's findings has sparked debate, it cannot be denied that persistent issues such as poverty, gender inequality, and inefficient governance contribute to the hunger crisis. To eliminate hunger in India, a multifaceted approach is required. This includes addressing root causes like poverty, improving public distribution systems, enhancing agricultural productivity, promoting dietary diversity, focusing on maternal and child health, and reducing gender inequality. By strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems, involving local communities, and advocating for policy changes, India can work toward a future where hunger is no longer a pressing issue.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains exam-

  1. What factors contribute to India's high child-wasting rate, and how can they be effectively addressed to combat hunger?. (10 marks, 150 words)
  2. How can India improve its public distribution system to ensure equitable and efficient food distribution, reducing hunger and malnutrition among its population?. (15 marks, 250 words)

Source - Down To Earth