India ranks 94 out of 107 nations in Hunger Index; Lanka, Nepal, Bangla, Pak better than India

News Network
October 17, 2020

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New Delhi, Oct 17: India ranked 94 among 107 nations in the Global Hunger Index 2020 and is in the 'serious' hunger category with experts blaming poor implementation processes, lack of effective monitoring, siloed approach in tackling malnutrition and poor performance by large states behind the low ranking.

Last year, India's rank was 102 out of 117 countries.

The neighbouring Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan too are in the 'serious' category but ranked higher than India in this year's hunger index. While Bangladesh ranked 75, Myanmar and Pakistan are in the 78th and 88th position.

Nepal in 73rd and Sri Lanka in 64th position are in 'moderate' hunger category, the report showed.

Seventeen nations, including China, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey, Cuba and Kuwait, shared the top rank with GHI scores of less than five, the website of the Global Hunger Index, that tracks hunger and malnutrition, said on Friday.

According to the report, 14 per cent of India's population is undernourished.

It also showed the country recorded a 37.4 per cent stunting rate among children under five and a wasting rate of 17.3 per cent. The under-five mortality rate stood at 3.7 per cent.

Wasting is children who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition. Stunting is children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition.

Data from 1991 through 2014 for Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan showed that stunting is concentrated among children from households facing multiple forms of deprivation, including poor dietary diversity, low levels of maternal education, and household poverty.

During this period, India experienced a decline in under-five mortality, driven largely by a decrease in deaths from birth asphyxia or trauma, neonatal infections, pneumonia, and diarrhoea, the report stated.

"However, child mortality, caused by prematurity and low birth weight, increased particularly in poorer states and rural areas. Prevention of prematurity and low birthweight is identified as a key factor with the potential to reduce under-five mortality in India, through actions such as better antenatal care, education, and nutrition as well as reductions in anaemia and oral tobacco use," it said.

Experts think that poor implementation processes, lack of effective monitoring and siloed approaches to tackling malnutrition often result in poor nutrition indices.

Purnima Menon, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, said the performance of large states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh need to be improved to see an overall change of India's ranking.

"The national average is affected a lot by the states like UP and Bihar... the states which actually have a combination of high levels of malnutrition and they contribute a lot to the population of the country.

"Every fifth child born in India is in Uttar Pradesh. So if you have a high level of malnutrition in a state that has a high population, it contributes a lot to India's average. Obviously, then, India's average will be slow to move," she said.

Ms Menon said big states with large population and a high burden of malnutrition are those which are actually affecting India's average.

"So, if we want a change in India then we would also need a change in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar," she said.

Shweta Khandelwal, the head of Nutrition Research and Additional Professor at Public Health Foundation of India, said the country has one of the most impressive portfolios of programmes and policies in nutrition in the books.

"However, the ground realities are quite dismal."

"Research shows that our top-down approach, poor implementation processes, lack of effective monitoring and siloed approaches in tackling malnutrition (missing convergence) often result in poor nutrition indices. We must integrate actions to make public health and nutrition a priority across each sector," she said.

Ms Khandelwal suggested five measures to prevent exacerbation of hunger because of the pandemic.

"Safeguard and promote access to nutritious, safe and affordable diets; invest in improving maternal and child nutrition through pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood; re-activate and scale-up services for the early detection and treatment of child wasting; maintain the provision of nutritious and safe school meals for vulnerable children and expand social protection to safeguard access to nutritious diets and essential service," she said.

She said it is important to aim at curbing multiple forms of malnutrition holistically in a concerted manner rather than single short-sighted fixes.

"Hunger and undernutrition cannot and should not be fixed by mere calorie provision. All stakeholders steered by robust leadership must pay attention to making balanced healthy diets which are climate-friendly, affordable and accessible to all," she added.

GHI score is calculated on four indicators - undernourishment; child wasting, the share of children under the age of five who are wasted-- who have low weight for their height reflecting acute undernutrition); child stunting, children under the age of five who have low height for their age reflecting chronic undernutrition; and child mortality - the mortality rate of children under the age of five.

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News Network
July 15,2021

New Delhi, July 15: A rise in India's Covid-19 infection rate is worrying authorities who are concerned that pilgrimages and tourism could prove to be "superspreader" events in the battle to douse a devastating second wave of infections that has killed thousands.

In a pilgrimage this month, thousands of Hindus are set to walk hundreds of miles across northern cities, carrying pitchers of water from the Ganges, a river they consider sacred.

The pilgrims could act as "super spreaders" and set off a third wave of infections, a top medical body has warned.

The Supreme Court this week questioned federal and state authorities in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh why mass religious gathering should be allowed.

The home ministry flagged the increase in the infective rate as a cause for concern in some states, urging officials nationwide to enforce social distancing and clamp down on overcrowding at tourist sites.

"We must guard ourselves against complacency and laxity, which creep in as positivity declines," Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla told them in a letter on Wednesday, at a time when most cities have lifted strict lockdowns.

Infectivity jumps

The effective reproduction rate of the disease, which health experts call the "R" factor, now stands at 0.86 in the world's second-most populous nation, online publication Our World in Data shows, a jump of more than 25% in a month.

Bhalla warned of the risk of a faster spread of infection when the rate exceeds 1.

"You may be aware that any increase in 'R' factor above 1.0 is an indicator of spread of Covid-19," he added.

Still, the website showed the 0.86 figure is off an April 9 peak of 1.47.

By May, that had propelled India's daily cases to a staggering 400,000, leaving thousands in cities, including the capital New Delhi, scrambling for oxygen, hospital beds, ambulances and ultimately, morgues.

Bodies washed up on the banks of the Ganges.

States had largely lifted curbs as infections slowed, but the second wave has not yet ended, top officials have warned.

India's tally of 30.99 million infections is second only to the United States, with 411,989 deaths.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned against overcrowding and called for vigilance against new variants, saying vaccination efforts needed to be sped up.

India is trying to inoculate all 950 million adults by year-end, but vaccine shortages and logistics hurdles have meant just 8% have received both doses. 

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Ramesh Mishra
 - 
Friday, 23 Jul 2021

COVID-19, DEATH AND INDIA
The true number of dead people due to Covid-19, pandemic India has no reliable system to justify.
Ramesh Mishra
Victoria, BC, CANADA

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News Network
July 19,2021

New Delhi, July 19: India saw a single-day rise of 38,164 new coronavirus infections, while the death toll climbed to 4,14,108 with 499 daily fatalities, the lowest in around 104 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday.

The total tally of Covid-19 cases has increased to   3,11,44,229.

The active cases have declined to 4,21,665 and comprise 1.35 per cent of the total infections, while the national Covid-19 recovery rate stands at 97.32 per cent, the data updated at 8 am showed.  

A decrease of 995 cases has been recorded in the active Covid-19 caseload in a span of  24 hours.

Also, 14,63,593 tests were conducted on Sunday taking the total cumulative tests conducted so far for detection of Covid-19 in the country to 44,54,22,256, while the daily positivity rate was recorded at  2.61 per cent.

It has been less than three per cent for 28 consecutive days, the ministry said, adding the weekly positivity rate has declined to  2.08 per cent, according to the health ministry.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 3,03,08,456 and the case fatality rate stands at 1.33 per cent, the data stated.

India's Covid-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16. It went past  60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on  October 11, crossed 80 lakh on October 29,  90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19. India crossed the grim milestone of 2 crore on May 4 and 3 crore on June 23. 

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News Network
July 20,2021

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Muslims in many countries around the world were observing Tuesday, July 20, yet another major Islamic holiday in the shadow of the pandemic and amid growing concerns about the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings and, for many, slaughtering of livestock and giving meat to the needy. This year, the holiday comes as many countries battle the delta variant first identified in India, prompting some to impose new restrictions or issue appeals for people to avoid congregating and follow safety protocols.

The pandemic has already taken a toll for the second year on a sacred mainstay of Islam, the hajj, whose last days coincide with Eid al-Adha. Once drawing some 2.5 million Muslims from across the globe to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the Islamic pilgrimage has been dramatically scaled back due to the virus.

This year, 60,000 vaccinated Saudi citizens or residents of Saudi Arabia have been allowed to perform the hajj, preventing Muslims from other countries from fulfilling the Islamic obligation.

Indonesia marked a grim Eid al-Adha amid a devastating new wave of coronavirus cases in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation. Large gatherings were banned and tougher travel restrictions imposed. Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, also an influential Islamic cleric, appealed to people to perform holiday prayers at home with their families.

“Don't do crowds,” Amin said in televised remarks ahead of the start of the holiday. “Protecting oneself from the Covid-19 pandemic is obligatory.”

The surge is believed to have been fueled by travel during another holiday — the Eid al-Fitr festival in May — and by the rapid spread of the delta variant.

In Malaysia, measures have been tightened after a sharp spike in infections despite a national lockdown since June 1 — people are banned from travelling back to their hometowns or crossing districts to celebrate. House visits and customary trips to graveyards are also banned.

Healthy worshippers are allowed to gather for prayers in mosques, with strict social distancing and no physical contact. Ritual animal sacrifice is limited to mosques and other approved areas.

Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah has urged Malaysians not to “repeat irresponsible behaviour,” adding that travel and celebrations during Eid al-Fitr and another festival on the island of Borneo led to new clusters of cases.

“Let us not in the excitement of celebrating the Feast of Sacrifice cause us all to perish because of Covid-19,” he said in a statement.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urged Muslims to stay home. “I appeal to you all to be patient and abide by the rules because your sacrifice is a great jihad in Allah's sight and in our effort to save lives,” he said in a televised speech on the eve of the festival.

The World Health Organization has reported that Covid-19 deaths had climbed after a period of decline. The reversal has been attributed to low vaccination rates, relaxed mask rules and other precautions, and the delta variant.

Lockdowns will severely curtail Eid al-Adha festivities in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities.

Sydney resident Jihad Dib, a New South Wales state government lawmaker, said the city's Muslims were sad but understood why they would be confined to their homes with no visitors allowed.

“It's going to be the first Eid in my life I don't hug and kiss my mum and dad,” Dib told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Melbourne Muslims face their second Eid al-Adha in lockdown in as many years. The sudden announcement of the Melbourne lockdown last week will also deal a huge financial blow to retailers who had stocked up on food ahead of what they thought would be usual Eid festivities.

Iran on Monday imposed a week-long lockdown on the capital, Tehran, and the surrounding region as the country struggles with another surge in the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported. The lockdown begins on Tuesday.

Not everyone is imposing new restrictions. In Bangladesh, authorities have allowed an eight-day pause in the country's strict lockdown for the holiday that health experts say could be dangerous.

In Egypt, Essam Shaban travelled to his southern hometown of Sohag to spend Eid al-Adha with his family. He said ahead of the start of the holiday that he planned to pray at a mosque there on Tuesday while taking precautions such as bringing his own prayer rug and wearing a mask.

“We want this Eid to pass by peacefully without any infections,” he said. “We must follow instructions.”

Shaban had been looking forward to pitching in with his brothers to buy a buffalo to slaughter, going door-to-door to give some of the meat to the poor and to the traditional festive meal later in the day with his extended family.

“It's usually boisterous with laughter and bickering with the kids,” he said. “It's great.”

But others will be without loved ones.

In India, where Eid al-Adha starts Wednesday, Tahir Qureshi would always go with his father for prayers and then to visit family and friends. His father died in June after contracting the virus during a surge that devastated the country, and the thought of having to spend the holiday without him is heartbreaking.

“It will be difficult without him,” he said.

Muslim scholars in India, where Eid will be celebrated on July 21, have been urging people to exercise restraint and adhere to health protocols. Some states have restricted large gatherings and are asking people to observe the holiday at home.

Meanwhile the pandemic's economic fallout, which threw millions of Indians into financial hardship, has many saying they cannot afford to buy sacrificial livestock.

In Kashmir, a disputed, Muslim-majority region, businessman Ghulam Hassan Wani is among those cutting back. “I used to sacrifice three or four sheep, but this year we can hardly afford one,” Wani said.

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