Bangladesh has moved 13 notches up from last year's 88th position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranking, says the 2020 GHI report. Which means among the 107 qualifying nations Bangladesh has now been ranked 75th with a score of 20.4 points on the GHI.
Actually, Bangladesh, considering its score, falls among the countries to whom poverty is still an issue. But there is nothing surprising about it given that we are all aware of it.
When all is said and done, it is indeed an instance of commendable progress made by the country within the span of a year. However, the data on which the evaluation is based have not taken the raging pandemic's impact on the people's lives and livelihoods into account. And it does not also give us any absolute measure of our poverty situation. Even so, it paints with a broad brush the country's present position on the global canvas of hunger.
Child stunting, for example, is one of the four components that go into making the GHI. Stunting, as is well known, is the case of a child with impaired growth where an under-five child's height is low for its age. Addressing the issues including malnutrition, recurring chronic infections, unhealthy feeding habits and lack of care constitutes the answer to the scourge. And reduction of its (stunting) rate by 12.8 percentage points, as the GHI score indicates, among under-5 Bangladeshi children over the past eight years since 2012 is remarkable.
And, of course, reduction in child mortality rate by 1.3 percentage points (from 4.3 in 2012 to 3 in 2020) over the same period is yet another accomplishment of note reflecting on the GHI.
Even with such attainments to our credit, there is no room for complacency. In fact, the country is yet to make much headway with other hunger-specific issues when 13 per cent of the population are suffering from acute nutritional deficiencies.
What needs noting is, when it comes to comparison of scores with our close South Asian neighbours, Bangladesh is still behind Nepal and Sri Lanka. It has, however, done better than India or Pakistan.
On a general note, there is again another plus point for the country to count on. It is agriculture where the country has performed better than others. That is definitely a positive sign as it would help the country address its food security concerns.
The issues that remain to be addressed have to do with increasing agriculture's productivity as well as diversifying its crop basket to reduce the country's vulnerabilities regarding food security. And the hunger index's link to food security cannot be overemphasised.
In the final analysis, rather than abstract figures, it is the knowledge of the existing reality on the ground that matters. This is especially so under the present pandemic situation when the poverty figure is feared to be doubled.
In that event, the government's real goal should be to ensure that every hungry individual is covered under its anti-hunger efforts. And if and when that happens that would be the real occasion for us to rejoice over any score points that we might be awarded by our external observers.