The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) published a statement on October 15 that debunked news reports which stated India slipped 45 places in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) Rankings in 2017.
Several Indian media outlets had misreported the GHI report published earlier that week by comparing India’s 2017 ranking (100) with its 2014 ranking (55) without looking at the base numbers.
This was exacerbated on social media by many including politicians such as Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi who were quick to latch on to the erroneous news articles.
However, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) clarified that it always discourages year-on-year comparison of a country’s scores and that rankings are based on current and historical data which are constantly being updated by United Nations agencies that compile them. (Click here to read IFPRI’s statement)
“Concluding from this comparison that India slipped 45 places in the GHI ranking is not only erroneous but also a gross misrepresentation of facts.” – IFPRI said
BOOM breaks down how India’s GHI numbers were misreported and what the ranking speaks about India’s efforts in alleviating hunger.
What is the Global Hunger Index?
GHI is a tool to track long term progress made by countries in reducing hunger. The report detailing the rankings is published annually by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
GHI score has 4 components:
1) Undernourishment – Measures share of population who are undernourished
2) Child wasting – Measures share of children with low weight against their height
3) Child stunting – Measures share of children with low height for their age
4) Child mortality – Measures rate of deaths of children below the age of 5
GHI defines ‘hunger’ as the deficiency of calories as well as micronutrients. GHI scores are at a 100 point scale with 0 being the best score and 100 the worst.
Why it’s wrong to compare India’s 2017 ranking (100) to its 2014 ranking (55)
- India ranked 55 out of 76 countries in 2014. The ranking cannot be compared to GHI 2017 which includes 119 countries.
- The GHI 2014 report did not include 44 countries with ‘low hunger’ scores (0-10). If these countries had been included, India’s ranking in 2014 would have been 99 (55+44).
- The formula to calculate the GHI score was revised in 2015. (In the earlier formula used between 2006-2014, ‘child underweight’ was used instead of the indicators – ‘child wasting’ and ‘child stunting’.
- Data sources for calculating 2017 GHI scores are from 2012-2016, of which the Congress was in power for two-and-a-half years.
How did India fare in 2017?
In 2017, India ranked 100 out of 119 countries with a score of 31.9. India’s score falls in the ‘serious’ category. The report states ‘India has consistently fallen into the upper half of the “serious” hunger levels category in the past few years.’
- 14.5% of India’s population is undernourished
- 21% of Indian children are wasted
- 38.4% of Indian children are stunted
- 4.8 / 100 children die before the age of 5
Among BRICS, India ranks the worst with a score of 31.9. Brazil scored 5.4, Russia – 6.2, China – 7.5 and South Africa – 13.2.
India also lagged many South Asian countries. Nepal scored – 22, Myanmar – 22.6, Sri Lanka – 25.5 and Bangladesh – 26.6. Only Pakistan (32.6) and Afghanistan (33.3) trail India.
How did India fare over the years?
Although IFPRI discourages comparisons, it provided GHI scores for the years 1992, 2000, 2008 vs 2017. GHI scores for these years were recalculated using the revised 2015 formula. GHI scores prior to 2015 are not at all comparable with scores since 2015.
Note: Lower the score, lower the hunger level. GHI score point scale is 0 – 100
GHI scores of India have lowered since 1992. In 2008 with a score of 35.9 India was at the lower end of ‘alarming’ category. Now in 2017, with a score of 31.9 India is still at the higher end of the ‘serious’ category.
India’s performance has been the worst in the indicator ‘wasting’. The GHI 2017 report shows that 21% or 1/5th of of Indian children (0-5) suffer from wasting and only three countries – Djibouti, Sri Lanka and South Sudan show prevalence of wasting above 20%. Child wasting measures share of children with low weight against their height, The report states that, ‘India’s child wasting rate has not substantially improved over the past 25 years.
Though prevalence of stunting among children is quite high at 38.4%, it has drastically reduced over time.
IFPRI said that countries should look carefully at their performance on the indicators that lie behind the GHI score. It also suggests that to improve its performance India needs to accelerate the progress made in larger states.
Sneha Alexander is a policy analyst and writes data fact checks. She enjoys looking for stories behind the numbers and presents it to the reader in a friendly format. She has fact-checked some of the country's top ministers and media publications for the wrong use of data. Her fact check stories have been carried by several other prominent digital websites.