Report rings hunger alarm

Saryu calls for ways to augment foodgrain production

By ACHINTYA GANGULY in Ranchi
  • Published 15.10.16
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Food and civil supplies minister Saryu Roy (centre) launches the global hunger index report at a state-level programme in Ranchi on Friday. Picture by Prashant Mitra

Ranchi, Oct. 14: Technical skills, political will and farmers' zeal, when combined, can increase production of foodgrains and thereby, address food crisis and hunger in a country that has ranked a low 97th among 118 developing nations in a global hunger index (GHI) report.

The suggestion came from state food and civil supplies minister Saryu Roy at a panel discussion on food and nutrition security in Jharkhand at a Ranchi hotel this afternoon.

The GHI report for 2016 - prepared by Welthungerhilfe, a German NGO, in collaboration with International Food Policy Research Institute, which makes the annual calculations of the index, and Concern Worldwide - had a state-level release at the event.

"The GHI report is a warning. It is high time both the government and society came together to improve the situation. There are many factors like coordination among various agencies, strengthening healthcare system, population control and improvement in food supply chain that need attention," Roy said at a discussion on the occasion.

The minister found support from economist Ramesh Sharan. "There is a need to focus on specific areas like irrigation, healthcare and proper distribution of foodgrains to address issues related to hunger," said Sharan.

Nivedita Varshneya, country director of Welthungerhilfe, said that parameters like share of undernourished population, infant mortality rate, wasting (low weight in relation to height) and stunting (low weight in relation to age) were considered for preparing the GHI.

"Scoring 28.5 in a scale of 100 points in GHI, India's rank is 97, behind Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In our country, 15.2 per cent of population is undernourished, 15.1 per cent children under five years wasted and 38.7 per cent children stunted," said Varshneya.

"A rapid survey conducted in Jharkhand in 2013-14 had found that 51.1 per cent Scheduled Tribe children below five years were underweight, 19.9 per cent wasted and 53.4 per cent stunted," informed Unicef state head Madhulika Jonathan, adding that the nutrition status of Jharkhand's children was worse than many other states.

According to state agriculture director J.S. Choudhary, the government was trying to improve crop yield in the state by addressing challenges that come in the way.

"Hunger and malnutrition are related to inequality," commented Balram, state adviser to the Supreme Court-appointed commissioners on food-related cases and urged the government to step in to do the needful like providing maternity benefits to pregnant women, who are often subjected to malnutrition.

Representatives of NGOs, who attended the programme, offered similar suggestions.