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India home to world's largest number of hungry people: report

May 29, 2015

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India's malnourished  people comprise just over 15 per cent of the population.  —AFP/File
India's malnourished people comprise just over 15 per cent of the population. —AFP/File

Approximately 194.6 million people are undernourished in India which accounts for the highest number of people suffering from hunger in any single country, said a report published on The Times of India.

The global number of malnourished people fell by 216 million in the early 90s and 2015, from over a billion to 795 million. However, India's contribution in this reduction has been small as her number fell by just 15.5 million.

This has led to India overtaking China, where numbers fell from 289 million in 1990-1992 to 133.8 million as per recent estimates.

The fall in China's numbers also led to the south-east Asian region contributing most to the global decline as revealed in a report called State of Food Security in the World 2015 released by UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation.

Along with the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), India missed the goal set up at the World Food Summit (WFS) in 1996 when various governments pledged to reduce the number of undernourished people by 2015. Out of 172 countries that were being monitored, 29 — including Nepal — met the WFS goal.

Although the overall hunger reduction has contributions from China and India, the highest strain of hunger in absolute terms was found in southern Asia.

Assessments for 2014-16 suggested that approximately 281 million people were malnourished in the region, which led to just a slight decline of 10 million people from 291 million in 1990-1992. The stagnant decline particularly in India had a compelling influence on results for the region.

The significant exceptions in the region were Nepal and Bangladesh. Nepal reached both the WFS target as well as MDG and is moving towards bringing down the number of undernourished people to less than five per cent of the population.

Bangladesh reached the MDG target with the National Food Policy framework — which was adopted in the mid-2000s — being given credit for this accomplishment.

In India, the malnourished comprise just over 15 per cent of the population.

India's lack of progess has remained ambiguous. Explanations offered for the disparity between food consumption and income levels include poor data, inequality and the challenges that arise in capturing the changes in energy requirements of the country's population.

The UN report also noted that calorie consumption being lower than what poverty rages and per capita incomes suggest remained incomprehensible.

Food security in Pakistan

Pakistan is currently home to approximately 41.4m under-nourished people, according to the UN FAO Hunger Map 2015 — about 22pc of the country's population.

While the number of hungry in India has shown a decline over the last 25 years, the number of under-nourished in Pakistan displays an upward trend.

There were 28.7m hungry in Pakistan in the 90's — a number that has steadily increased between 1990 and 2015, with the seven years between 2005 and 2012 displaying relatively slower growth in the number of hungry people.


Number of under-nourished in Pakistan

1990-1992: 28.7m

2000-2002: 34.4m

2005-2007: 38.1m

2010-2012: 38.8m

2014-2016: 41.4m