A worrying slide down the hunger index

Published: 00:00, Oct 18,2019


BANGLADESH’S sliding down by two notches in the Global Hunger Index 2019 suggests that the government’s poverty and hunger reduction measures have largely failed to achieve the intended goal. While the government boasts of efforts to cut down on hunger, the index, released on Wednesday, ranks Bangladesh 88th among 117 countries, terming the hunger situation ‘serious’. Bangladesh ranked 86th in the 2018 index. Prepared on a 100-point severity scale, the Index is calculated on four indicators — undernourishment, and the wasting, stunting and mortality rate of children. Although Bangladesh has slightly improved on its scores in all the four parameters, it has not been able to pull out of its status of being a country where the issue of hunger is ‘serious’, with 14.7 per cent of the population still suffering from undernourishment, 14.4 per cent of the children wasting and 36.2 per cent of the children stunting. Various reports also show that proper and nutritious diet is still beyond the reach of many.

Hunger is correlated to poverty. A World Bank study titled Bangladesh Poverty Assessment report, which was made public in the past week, estimates that a half of the country’s population lives close to the poverty threshold of $1.9 a day. The current high economic growth has benefited but a few, leaving the majority of the population vulnerable to poverty. Different reports show that almost 50 million people lack food security and many of them do not have access to the food safety net because of its poor coverage, targeting and administration. Flawed economic policies and uneven development have largely affected poverty reduction measures. Moreover, Bangladesh is reported to have seen a growing gap in poverty reduction in the east and the west. An almost stable growth of the gross domestic product for the past few years seems to have failed to reach the poor and middle-income people. The increasing income inequality, with the Gini coefficient remaining static at 0.482 since 2016, has also grossly affected poverty reduction measures. While a few amass an unbelievable amount of wealth, the majority becomes vulnerable to poverty, as is evident in the World Ultra Wealth Report 2018, in which Bangladesh topped.

The government must address the hunger situation as millions of people are vulnerable to hunger, visible or silent. It is imperative for the government to bring the most vulnerable part of the population under an effective food safety net and ensure that people get access to nutritious diet. Benefits of economic development and the growth must also reach all sections of people across the country.

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