Reducing Hunger Still Remains An Issue That India Needs To Tackle

Nimisha Bansal
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Woman and child in rural India

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2017' report, estimates that 190.7 million people are undernourished in India. We are home to the largest number of hungry people in the world. Despite improvements in the last few years, the condition remains worrying, with consequences ranging from chronic diseases to starvation deaths.


Recently, in Delhi, three sisters aged eight, four and two, died after not getting food for eight days. The incident triggered reactions from people across the country, highlighting the issue of hunger that affects millions in the country every day.

The cause of their deaths was confirmed as starvation after the post-mortem. "There was no trace of fat on their bodies. The post-mortem showed the stomach was absolutely empty. It's a case of gross malnutrition," said Amita Saxena, Medical Superintendent, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital to NDTV. The Delhi government has ordered an inquiry after into the issue.

In June this year, a 58-year-old woman allegedly died of starvation in Jharkhand's Giridih district. The woman reportedly was left starving for at least three days reported IndiaTV news.

Last year, in September, Santoshi Kumar, an 11-year-old girl in Simdega district of Jharkhand, died last year after starving for nearly eight days. Her family had not received any ration for months as their ration card was cancelled, after being struck off the Public Distribution System (PDS) for not linking it with the Aadhaar Card.

Hunger: A grave problem

According to the report, 38.4% of the children under five in India are stunted (too short for their age), while 21% suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height. Malnourished children have a higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria. Children and women are the worst-hit groups when it comes to hunger. According IndiaFoodBanking  which looks after hunger relief management:

  • 14.5% of our population is undernourished
  • 3,000 children in India die every day from poor diet-related illness
  • 21.0% of children under 5 are underweight
  • 38.4% of children under 5 years of age are stunted
  • 190.7 million people go hungry every day

Global Hunger Index

The Global Hunger Index 2017 ranks India at 100 out of 118 countries on the basis of three leading indicators -- the prevalence of wasting and stunting in children under five years, under-5 child mortality rate, and the proportion of undernourished in the population. We have a “serious“ (31.4) food security situation. The major problem in the country is the high prevalence of underweight children under five, which is a result of low nutrition and educational status of women.

The India State Hunger Index (ISHI) is used to compare statistics within the states. The ISHI statistics for 2008 range from 13.6 (“serious”) for Punjab to 30.9 (“extremely alarming”) for Madhya Pradesh, indicating substantial variability among states in India.

Women and Children Worst Hit

The statistics remain disproportionately against women in the country. This stems from a patriarchal mindset that favours boy child over girl child, resulting in undernutrition or malnutrition of the girl child. According to a report, 51.4% of women in reproductive age between 15 to 49 years are anaemic.


Worldwide, women account for 60% of the total hungry population. In India, the nutrition of children is particularly worse because of the state of their mothers. "36 percent of Indian women are chronically under-nourished, from their childhood itself. This can be attributed to the fact that girl children are less wanted in a patriarchal society, where men receive food before women. Data from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh shows that girls represent up to 68 per cent of the children admitted to programmes for the severely malnourished," as per a UNICEF report.

Nimisha Bansal is an intern with

Read: Photographing Hungry People As Props Isn’t Social Commentary

Source: The Hindu

Global Hunger Index starvation deaths malnutrition Nutrition hunger women and children