Press release by International Food Policy Research Institute.

Recent reports that India’s ranking in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has fallen significantly are based on misinterpretations of the GHI data. This has created a misunderstanding of hunger levels in India. The accurate interpretation of the GHI data is described below.

The Global Hunger Index report has always made it clear that year on year comparisons of a country’s scores, or indicators would not be accurate for several reasons –  chief among them being that GHI scores are based on current and historical data that are continuously being revised and improved by the United Nations agencies that compile them.

These revisions ensure the most accurate depiction of current and historical hunger levels in a given country, and each year’s GHI report reflects these changes. As a result, GHI scores from different years’ reports are not directly comparable with one another. In addition to this ongoing revision of data, the methodology used for calculating the GHI changed in 2015, along with the GHI Severity Scale. Scores from 2014 or earlier are thus not at all comparable to scores in the reports from 2015 or later.

India’s 2014 GHI rank of 55 and 2014 GHI score of 17.8, as published in the 2014 GHI report, are not comparable to the 2017 GHI rank of 100 and corresponding GHI score of 31.4. Concluding from this comparison that India slipped 45 places in the GHI ranking is not only erroneous but also a gross misrepresentation of facts.

In addition, countries with GHI scores of less than 5 (“low”) were not included in the ranking in in the 2014 GHI report. Thus, in the 2014 report, 44 countries with scores lower than India’s were not included. Had those countries been included, India’s 2014 ranking would have been not 55, but 99.  Finally, due to data availability, different countries are included in the GHI ranking each year, again making a comparison of rankings between years inaccurate.

A country’s ranking should be understood as a snapshot for a given reference period and is meaningful as such, without comparing ranks across years. (Please refer to page 8 of the report for additional information). For historical comparisons of each country’s progress in reducing hunger, the 2017 GHI report also includes scores for 1992, 2000, and 2008.

India’s Performance in the 2017 Global Hunger Index

In 2017 the GHI ranked India 100 out of 119 countries, with a Global Hunger Index score of 31.4, placing the country in the “serious” category. India has consistently fallen into the upper half of the “serious” hunger levels category in the past few years. Its performance on four indicators is as follows:

Indicators  Proportion of undernourished
in the population (%)
Prevalence of wasting in
children under five years (%)

Prevalence of stunting in children under five years (%)

Under-five mortality rate (%)
2017 14.5 21.0 38.4 4.8


Global Hunger Index Methodology

There are several advantages to measuring hunger using this combination of four indicators mentioned above. The indicators included in the GHI formula reflect caloric deficiencies as well as poor nutrition. By including indicators specific to children, the index captures the nutrition situation not only of the population as a whole, but also of children—a particularly vulnerable subset of the population for whom a lack of dietary energy, protein, or micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) leads to a high risk of illness, poor physical and cognitive development, and death. The inclusion of both child wasting and child stunting allows the GHI to capture both acute and chronic undernutrition.

By combining multiple indicators, the index minimizes the effects of random measurement errors. (Please find more detailed notes on GHI calculation methodology on page 9, box 1.2 of the GHI 2017 report.)

As noted in the report, and highlighted every year by IFPRI, it is quite important that countries look carefully at their performance on the indicators that lie behind the GHI score, and engage in critical thinking about the policies, programs and other actions that can systematically address each of those indicators.

India’s status on undernourishment is quite different from India’s status on child undernutrition – stunting and wasting.  Although stunting has declined over time, the stagnation in wasting calls for careful analysis of the factors that underlie wasting, and subsequent policy actions to address those factors.  It is also useful to examine the inequities in progress in some of these indicators across India’s states.  Progress in some of India’s larger states is important to accelerate to ensure that India’s performance as a whole is accelerated.

IFPRI remains committed to supporting the reduction of hunger in India through research and analysis to inform strategic actions to address undernourishment and undernutrition.

Photo: Juan Antonio Segal (CC BY 2.0)