Action Aid report on hunger identifies India as a loser

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published Published on Oct 21, 2009   modified Modified on Oct 21, 2009

A new international report slams the Indian government for not doing enough to end hunger. It says hunger exists in India because of a lack of purchasing capacity of the poor rather due to insufficiency of food production.

Titled “Who’s Really Fighting Hunger”?, (see the link below) the Action Aid report which was released on 16 October, 2009 reveals that in India 30 million people have been added to the ranks of the hungry since the mid-1990s and 44 percent of children below 5 years of age were underweight during 2000-2006.

The percentage of population that is undernourished is 21 percent during 2003-2005. India ranks 27th among developing countries in terms of prevalence of hunger and figures in between Ethiopia and Burundi, the dark spots of hunger. However, India ranks 3rd among the developing countries in terms of provision of social protection to its citizens.

The report argues that over-exploitation of natural resources has led to "horrific displacements" of people, pushing many into poverty in India. Almost 1.6 million people were displaced by ‘development’ projects in four states alone, mentions the report. This is a bold remark since we have already seen the kind of violence being inflicted by the State on innocent citizens for construction of dams, hydro power projects and lately Special Economic Zones (SEZs). While welcoming the National Rural Employment Guaranty Act (NREGA), the report asks for more effectiveness in the implementation of the programme to save millions from the fury of droughts and famines.

The first section of the report, ‘Hunger FREE Global Indicators,’ compares performance and progress across countries. The second section of the Action Aid report, ‘Hunger FREE Country Scorecards’, takes a closer look at each country with at-a-glance scorecards. The report specifies that ability and commitment to fight hunger does not depend on wealth and finds that some relatively poor countries (such as Malawi) have made striking progress to end hunger. More than one billion people–a sixth of humanity-don’t have enough to eat, the report claims.

Brazil tops the league of developing countries in making committed attempts to end hunger. Under the able leadership of President Lula de Silva, Brazil's Fome Zero programme (Zero Hunger Project, has introduced food banks, community kitchens and locally procured school meals along with simultaneous support for smallholder family farmers and land reform settlers. As a result of this, child malnutrition has fallen by 73 percent and child deaths by 45 percent. The report mentions that Brazil’s “Bolsa Familia” programme, which grants a range of family benefits, is the largest conditional cash transfer programme in the world: in 2008, it covered about 47 million people, 25 percent of Brazil’s population.

According to the report, China has ranked second in the overall scorecard because of its good performance in ending hunger. China, through heavy investment in supporting its poor farmers and a relatively equitable distribution of land, has reduced the number of undernourished people by 58 million within a span of 10 years between 1990 and 2001. Presently, less than 9 percent of the population goes hungry, which is a remarkable progress in a country as huge as this. Ghana (3rd rank), Vietnam (4th rank) and Malawi (5th rank) have been the other top performers in ending hunger in the overall scorecard.

What is worth mentioning is that India ranks 22nd among the developing countries who are fighting against hunger and its position comes between Zambia (21st rank) and Guinea Bissau (23rd rank). Pakistan (26th rank) is performing no better than desperately poor and conflict-torn countries such as Sierra Leone (25th rank), despite having a per capita income over two and half times higher.

The Action Aid report has also ranked the developed countries based on their attempts to end hunger. Despite being high per capita income countries, the United States (21st rank) and New Zealand (22nd rank) comes at the bottom of the overall scorecard. Luxembourg (1st rank), Finland (2nd rank), Ireland (3rd rank), Norway (4th rank) and Denmark (5th rank) have been the top five performers among the developed countries to have made active attempts to end hunger and poverty. The report mentions that rich countries’ (particularly the US and Germany) policies to encourage biofuel use are contributing to food price volatility, and threaten to further undermine smallholder farmers including women farmers. The United States (21st rank) comes at the bottom of the rankings of the developed countries who are reducing greenhouse gas emissions at home and are committed to financing the estimated US $182 billion annual cost required by 2020 for tackling climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.  

The report asks to make the right to food justiciable in national constitutions and framework laws. In this context, it can be mentioned that India has already taken a step forward to come out with Food Security Act. However, experts and activists from the Right to Food Campaign ( feel that the government is in a mood to further dilute the existing public distribution system and curtail the rest of the food and nutrition related schemes. In the days to come, we may expect India to come to the bottom in the hunger rankings if food security and sustainable agriculture are undermined further due to government inactions.

Further readings:

Who’s Really Fighting Hunger? by Action Aid, 16 October, 2009,

Mixed messages in hunger report, BBC, 16 October, 2009,

More than a billion hungry on World Food Day by Mark Doyle, BBC, 16 October, 2009,

ActionAid's HungerFREE Scorecard Investigates why a Billion People are Hungry, 16 October, 2009,

Some poor nations succeeding in fighting hunger by The Associated Press, 16 October, 2009,

Malawi sparkles in fighting hunger index by Taonga Sabola, 19 October, 2009,

Bangladesh ranks 15th in fighting hunger,


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