India’s record is worse than the average of 12.9% undernourished for all developing regions put together. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
New Delhi: Home to a quarter of the world’s hungry, India has missed the target set under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of halving the proportion of undernourished by 2015, and the World Food Summit (WFS) target of halving the absolute number of hungry.
India is home to 194.6 million of the 794.6 million undernourished people in the world, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World report released on Wednesday.
Compared with India, other South Asian countries like Bangladesh and Nepal have performed remarkably well, said the report, jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.
Higher economic growth in India has not translated into higher food consumption, “let alone better diets,” and the poor may have failed to benefit from growth, it said.
While the proportion of undernourished in India’s population fell from 23.7% in 1990-92 to 15.2% in 2014-16, a decline of 36%, Nepal and Bangladesh reported improved reductions at 65.6% and 49.9%, respectively.
To be sure, other countries in South Asia including India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, too, have made progress in reducing hunger, even if the pace has been too slow for them to reach either the WFS or the MDG targets, the report observed, citing Bangladesh as a notable exception due to a National Food Policy Framework adopted in the mid-2000s.
Nepal has not only reached the MDG target but has almost reached the threshold of 5% undernourished in its population,.
The report shows India’s record is worse than the average of 12.9% undernourished for all developing regions put together. While the majority—72 out of 129 countries monitored by the FAO—achieved the MDG target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, developing regions as a whole missed the target by a small margin, the report found.
“The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the Zero Hunger generation,” FAO director general José Graziano da Silva said in a statement.
Several factors like improved agricultural productivity, inclusive growth and social protection have enabled countries to achieve their targets, the report said.
“Inclusive growth provides a proven avenue for those with fewer assets and skills in boosting their incomes, and providing them the resilience they need to weather natural and man-made shocks,” it said.
More than two-thirds of the world’s poor still do not have access to regular and predictable forms of social support, the report said, adding that such transfers help households manage risk and mitigate shocks that would otherwise leave them trapped in poverty and hunger.
“The expansion of social protection—often cash transfers to vulnerable households, but also food vouchers, health insurance or school meal programs, perhaps linked to guaranteed procurement contracts with local farmers—correlated strongly with progress in hunger reduction and in assuring that all members of society have the healthy nutrition to pursue productive lives,” it said.