Bangladesh has moved 13 notches up to the 75th position among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020, surpassing its neighbours India and Pakistan but still remaining in the "Serious" category.
This year, the country achieved a GHI score of 20.4 out of 100. A higher score implies a worsening hunger situation, whereas zero is the best score – indicating no hunger.
Bangladesh managed to lower its GHI score of 34.1 achieved in 2000, showing an improvement by over 40% in these 20 years. But it continues to linger in the same category, despite gradual improvement in the overall hunger and under-nutrition indicators since the beginning of this millennium.
In the last edition of the global ranking published in 2019, Bangladesh ranked 88th out of 117 countries, with a score of 25.8. The GHI assigns the scores in five severity levels – low (9.9 or less), moderate (10.0-19.9), serious (20.0-34.9), alarming (35.0-49.9) and extremely alarming (50 or higher).
The latest index was published jointly on October 12 by international humanitarian organisation Concern Worldwide and Germany's Welthungerhilfe – one of the largest private aid organisations in the world.
Commenting on the matter, Centre for Policy Dialogue's Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun put more emphasis on food availability, saying, "If we look at the official statistics of food production in Bangladesh, it will show an increasing trend, but the problem is with food availability.
"The availability of food must be increased along with the food production, and we need to ensure sufficient access to food for the marginalised people."
Dr Fahmida also mentioned the importance of a proper distribution channel along with an uninterrupted and smooth supply chain to ensure food accessibility.
"We have done well in reducing hunger in the country, but we should not become complacent. Instead, we should work more on how we can introduce more measures to increase food availability among the people," she said, adding that modern technology should be utilised for higher food production.
Summarising her opinion, Dr Fahmida said, "We should focus broadly on three points to reduce hunger, firstly by increasing agricultural productivity through technology; secondly by ensuring an uninterrupted food distribution channel and supply chain, and lastly through boosting the purchasing power by generating more employment."
The Global Hunger Index measures and tracks the hunger level globally, regionally and nationally in order to trigger actions for reducing hunger across the globe. The score of countries is based on four components – Undernourishment, Child Wasting, Child Stunting and Child Mortality.
According to the index, Bangladesh has shown the biggest improvement in curbing Child Stunting. During the nine-year period from 2012 to 2020, the country reduced child stunting by 12.8 percentage points.
Yet, 28% of under-five children experienced chronic undernutrition in 2020.
Moreover, Bangladesh saw the narrowest improvement in the undernourishment component. Around 13% of the total population are experiencing undernourishment or insufficient caloric intake. The value was 13.8% in 2012, suggesting an improvement of only 0.8 percentage points during the period.
Additionally, the country witnessed a 3% under-five mortality rate in 2020. The report also mentions that undernourishment is an indicator of inadequate food supply.
The index includes six South Asian countries where Sri Lanka (64th) tops the ranking followed by Nepal (73rd) and Bangladesh. Both Sri Lanka and Nepal are the only countries in South Asia to be placed in the "moderate" severity level.
Afghanistan (99th), India (94th) and Pakistan (88th) are the bottom three countries in South Asia. The GHI has not included Bhutan and Maldives in the 2020 report. The Concern Worldwide is set to officially launch the report on October 16.