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Contextual Strategies for Hunger Reduction: A Case of South Asian Countries

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Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
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Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
207
Contextual Strategies for Hunger Reduction: A Case
of South Asian Countries
1,2Islam M. R., 3Rahman Z. A., 4Ghazali A. S., 5Arnakim L. Y. B. and 6Faruque C. J.
1 Professor, Institute of Social Welfare & Research, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
2 Visiting Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Administration & Justice, University of Malaya, Malaysia.
3 Associate Professor, Department of History, , University of Malaya, Malaysia.
4 Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Malaya, Malaysia.
5 Senior Lecturer, Department of South East Asian Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.
6 Profesor, Department of Social Work, Winona State University, USA.
Abstract
The aim of this study was to explore the contextual strategies for hunger reduction in the South Asia. The study was
based on a content analysis method. The search for relevant literature was completed in two stages. First, we examined the
peer-review articles found in the electronic databases using keyword searches; Secondly, we used the ‘snowball’ method for
searching the journal articles and published reports. The empirical evidence showed that the South Asian countries have
reduced hunger significantly. This trend is largely associated with a number of interrelated and contextual factors, such as
poverty, food insecurity, financial vulnerability, natural and social disasters, and political commitment of the government.
Poverty was seen as one of the principal dimensions that is interlinked with other many complex issues such as malnutration
and under mutration, low birth weight, bad food habits, illiteracy, lack of social awareness, lack of goverment commitment,
over pupolation, unemploment, lack of women empowerment, etc. This paper concludes that the findings would be an
important guideline to the policy makers, NGO workers, and international organizations.
Keywords: Hunger, global hunger index (GHI), poverty, food deficiency, South Asia.
Corresponding author: Visiting Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Administration & Justice, University of Malaya, 50603
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
208
Introduction
The World Bank (2015) recently reported that the
highest 23 percent (336 million) of the people, who are
routinely hungry live in the South Asia region. According to
the World Food Programme (WFP, 2014), there are 805
million hungry people in the world and 98 per cent of them
are in developing countries. They are distributed as such
526 million in Asia and the Pacific, 227 million in Africa, 37
million in Latin America/Caribbean, and 15 million in the
developed countries. As of 2008 (2005 statistics), the World
Bank (2014) estimated that there are 1,345 million poor
people in developing countries who live on $1.25 a day or
less. The extreme poverty remains an alarming problem in
the world’s developing regions. Since 1990, a significant
progress has been made in the fight against hunger. The
GHI score in 1990 was 20.6 for the developing world, and
the score stands at 12.5 in 2012, representing a reduction
of 39 percent. Despite this progress, the number of the
hungry people in the world remains unacceptably high. In
2012-2014, about 805 million people were chronically
undernourished (Grebmer
et al.,
2014). A decline in child
underweight lowered the aggregate GHI score for the
developing world by 3.5 points, whereas the changes in the
share of undernourished people in the population and the
child mortality rate contributed reductions of 3.1 and 1.5
points respectively.
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2014 mentioned
hunger as distress associated with the lack of food to meet
basic nutritional needs (Grebmer
et al.,
2014). The GHI
2013 mentioned some fundamental causes of global
hunger, which include poverty, harmful economic systems,
conflict, and climate change (Grebmer
et al.,
2013). Hunger
is also related to a cause of poverty and thus has a cyclic
effect. The causes of poverty include the lack of resources
and an extremely unequal income distribution. The World
Food Programme (WFP, 2015) mentioned six most
important causes of global hunger, which are often
interconnected e.g., poverty trap (those who cannot afford
nutritious food for themselves and their families), lack of
investment in agriculture (developing countries lack key
agricultural infrastructures, such as enough roads,
warehouses and irrigation), climate and weather (natural
disasters such as floods, tropical storms and long periods
of drought are on the increase with calamitous
consequences for the hungry poor in developing countries),
war and displacement (across the globe, conflicts
consistently disrupt farming and food production),
unstable markets (roller-coaster food prices make it
difficult for the poorest people to access nutritious food
consistently), and food wastage (one third of all food
produced is never consumed). This food wastage
represents a missed opportunity to improve global food
security in a world where one in eight suffers from hunger.
The number of chronically hungry people in the South Asia
is grown close to 70 million. Overwhelmingly dependent on
agriculture for their food, these populations have no
alternative source of income or employment. As a result,
they are vulnerable to climate change and food crises.
The WFP (2014) reported that three-quarters of all
hungry people live in the rural areas in Asia and Africa.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculates
that around a half of the world's hungry people are from
the smallholder farming communities, surviving off
marginal lands prone to natural disasters like drought or
flood. Another 20 percent belong to landless families
dependent on farming and about 10 percent live in
communities, whose livelihoods depend on herding, fishing
or forest resources. The UNICEF (2009) mentioned that 146
million children in the developing countries are
underweight- the result of acute or chronic hunger. Women
are the world's primary food producers, yet cultural
traditions and social structures often mean women are
much more affected by hunger and poverty than men. It is
evident that a mother who is stunted or underweight due to
an inadequate diet often gives birth to low birth weight
children. Around 50 percent of the pregnant women in the
developing countries are iron deficient (UNICEF, 2009).
However, with the less resources and capacities, the South
Asian countries have achieved greater success in the
hunger index compared to other regions in the world. Most
of the countries in this region achieved an overall greater
hunger score. They have achieved greater successes
compared to previous years in proportion of
undernourished in the population, prevalence of
underweight children under five years, and under five
mortality rates.
This paper includes three main concepts e.g., hunger,
Global Hunger Index (GHI), and GHI score to measure
hunger and hunger reductions in the South Asian regions.
The concept ‘hunger’ conceives multiple meanings.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (1971), “Hunger
is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food,
craving appetite, and the exhausted condition caused by
want of food; want or scarcity of food in a country; and a
strong desire or craving.” The related technical term of
hunger is either malnutrition, or, if malnutrition is taken to
refer to under-nutrition and over-nutrition. Both the
malnutrition and under-nutrition refer to not having
enough food. The GHI 2014 mentioned that hunger is
usually understood to refer to the distress associated with
the lack of food. The FAO (2014) defines food deprivation,
or undernourishment, as the consumption of fewer than
about 1,800 kilocalories a daythe minimum that most
people require to live a healthy and productive life
1
. Under-
1
FAO considers the composition of a population by
age and sex to calculate its average minimum energy
requirement for an individual engaged in low physical
activity, which varies by country (from about 1,650 to more
than 2,000 kilocalories per person per day for developing
countries in 2011-2013 according to FAO 2014). The
Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
209
nutrition is the result of inadequate intake of food in terms
of either quantity or quality of the poor utilization of
nutrients due to infections or other illnesses, or a
combination of these factors. These in turn are caused by a
range of factors including household food insecurity;
inadequate maternal health or childcare practices; or
inadequate access to health services, safe water, and
sanitation. Malnutrition refers more broadly to both under-
nutrition (problems of deficiencies) and over-nutrition
(problems of unbalanced diets, such as consuming too
many calories in relation to requirements with or without
low intake of micronutrient-rich foods).
The GHI is a tool whivch is designed to measure and
track hunger globally and by region and country.
Calculated each year by the International Food Policy
Research Institute (IFPRI), the goal of the GHI is to raise
awareness and understanding of regional and country
differences. A number of different indicators can be used
to measure GHI, which combines three equally weighted
indicators into one index such as undernourishment, child
underweight, and child mortality.
The GHI 2014 has been calculated for 120 countries
for which data on the three component indicators are
available and where measuring hunger is considered most
relevant. The scores are based on source data that are
continually revised by the United Nations agencies that
compile them, and each year’s GHI report reflects these
revisions. The GHI 2014 contains the GHI scores for four
other reference periods-1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005. This
calculation results in a 100-point scale on which zero is
the best score (no hunger) and 100 the worst, although
neither of these extremes is reached in practice. A value of
100 would be reached only if the whole population was
undernourished, all children younger than five were
underweight, and all children died before their fifth
birthday. A value of zero would mean that a country had no
undernourished people in the population, no children
younger than five who were underweight, and no children
who died before their fifth birthday.
The total South Asian population is 1.671 billion,
which accounts for 24 percent of the total world population
(World Bank, 2013). In terms of population, India is the
second largest, Pakistan sixth, and Bangladesh seventh
most populated country in the world. According to the
Human Development Index 2010 and GHI 2014, the
development indicators in South Asian countries are
country’s average minimum energy requirement for low
physical activity is used to estimate undernourishment
(FAO, IFAD, and WFP, 2014). In 2012, FAO started
computing the average minimum energy requirement for
an individual engaged in normal physical activity and
using this higher threshold to estimate the prevalence of
food inadequacy for each country. This indicator is a less
conservative measure of food deficiency in the population
than the undernourishment indicator (FAO, 2014).
comparatively low though the GHI scores are better.
Corresponding to the last available data obtained in the
Gini Coefficient, Democracy Index, and Corruption Index,
most of these countries’ statistics are dire (Table 1).
Clearly, these statistics show a high inequality and poor
socio-economic conditions.
In the South Asian region, India, Bangladesh, and
Pakistan have high population pressure in terms of the
total resources. In addition, huge environmental threats
loom large in Bangladesh, great disparities in treatment of
lower classes in India, long term political unrest in Nepal,
and post-conflict in the North of Sri Lanka weaken the
overall socio-economic conditions in South Asia. However,
compared to 1990’s, the present economic growth and the
progress of the hunger index in this region has been an
affirmative trend. The negative development indicators
make a greater challenge to achieve a hunger free region.
According to the United Nations Development Group
(2014), more than 50 percent of the world’s
undernourished children are in South Asia, predominantly
in rural areas. Yet, despite the magnitude of the problem,
the plight of the hungry goes relatively unreported and
unaddressed. Asia has the largest number of hungry
people, with more than 500 million suffering daily. This
means that 62 percent of the global hunger exists in both
Asia and the South Pacific. According to the GHI 2014,
more than 20 percent of the Asian children are
underweight and more than 70 percent are malnourished.
About 75 percent of all those suffering from hunger live in
the rural areas.
Eight out of ten malnourished children live in South
Asia. There are many reasons behind this hunger trend in
this region. The UNICEF (2009) stated that the case is
related with the high levels of income inequality, rapid
urbanization, persistent and pervasive social polarization,
increasing food prices, a lack of government attention to
agriculture and rural development, and the mounting
effects of climate change-droughts, floods and cyclones.
These are directly related with the hunger and
malnutrition.
Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
210
Table 1 Major indicators of South Asia.
Indicator
Countries
Bangladesh
India
Nepal
Sri
Lanka
Population 2010/11 (Rank)
151,000,000 (8)
1,210,000,000 (2)
28,500,000 (43)
21,045,400 (55)
Human Development Index
2010
0.469 (132)
0.519 (122)
0.428 (141)
0.691 (97)
Global Hunger Index 1990
(Rank)
36.6
31.2
28.4
22.2
Global Hunger Index 2014
(Rank)
19.1 (57)
17.8 (55)
16.4 (44)
15.1 (39)
Economic growth (year)
6.5% (2011)
8.5% (2010)
5.6% (2007)
7.8% (2011)
Gini Coefficient (0=totally
equal)
0.33
0.37
0.47
0.40
Democracy Index (out of 10)
5.86 (2011)
7.30 (2011)
4.24 (2011)
6.58 (2011)
Corruption Index (Rank)
2.7 (120) (2011)
3.1 (95) (2011)
2.2 (2011)
3.1 (95) (2011)
Specific issues
Immense population
pressure
and vulnerability to
disaster
High inequalities
and social
discrimination
Unsettled political
landscape and high
inequalities
Post-conflict
situation in
the North
Source: Based on Welthungerhilfe (2012) and GHI 2014 (Grebmer
et al.,
2014).
The table 2 shows the main indicators of the hunger
index e.g., GHI, undernourished population, underweight
children, and under five mortality rate of the South Asian
countries. In terms of the GHI performance over the last 24
years (1990-2014), the South Asian countries’ progress has
greatly improved compared to other regions in the world.
In this time, the overall GHI fell by 41 percent in this
region. All countries in this region reduced the proportion
of undernourished in the population, prevalence of
underweight children under five years, and under-five
mortality rate. A number of socio-economic consequences
helped in getting this performance. Overall, the 2014 GHI
scores for South Asia were better than the 1990 GHI
scores. For instance, the 2014 GHI score fell by 41 percent
in South Asia. This region saw the steepest absolute
decline in its score, amounting to more than 12 points. The
South Asia had the second-highest 2014 GHI regional
score-18.1-just one-tenth of a point behind the worst
regional performer, Africa south of the Sahara. South Asia
reduced its GHI score by 3 points between 1990 and 1995.
Following a ten-year slowdown, the region has made
considerable progress again since 2005. Several South
Asian countries showed dramatically improved scores
since 1990, including Bangladesh.
The statistics of the three indicators e.g., proportion
of undernourished in the population, prevalence of
underweight in children under five years, and under-five
mortality rate (Table 2) in different years showed that all of
the South Asian countries have achieved excellent
performances except Pakistan. All countries reduced the
proportion of their undernourished population, albeit
slowly. According to the data in the latest years 2011-13,
the lowest number 16.0 percent of undernourished
population live in Nepal followed by Bangladesh 16.3, India
17.0, Pakistan 17.2 and Sri Lanka with the highest at 22.8
percent. Bangladesh reduced their GHI score to nearly half
in 23 years, which was 33.9 percent in 1990-92 and 16.3
percent in the latest years 2011-13. This reduction rate
was fastest from 2007 to 2011-13 in all Asian countries
excluding Bangladesh. Data showed that Bangladesh
reduced their GHI nearly in half within three years, which
was 36.7 percent in 1994-96 and 18.0 percent by 1999-01.
Data on the prevalence of the underweight children under
five years showed that Sri Lanka achieved a better
performance, which is 21.6 percent in the latest years
2009-13, followed by Nepal 29, India 30.7, Pakistan 31.6,
and the highest was Bangladesh at 36.8 percent.
Bangladesh reduced nearly half of the population listed in
this category from 61.6 percent to 36.8 percent in the years
1988-92 to 2009-13. This reduction trend was faster after
the 1998-02 period. India reduced 25 points between 1998-
92 to 2009-13 and the reduction rate was a bit faster after
2003-07. Nepal reduced 15 points in this time with an
increase after 2003-07, like India. Pakistan reduced this
portion very slowly, but after 2003-07, it further increased
in this category by nearly one point. Sri Lanka reduced 10
points during the years 1988-92 to 2009-13, but data
showed that the performance got slower over time. Sri
Lanka’s under-five mortality rate was the lowest in South
Asia. According to the latest year (2012), this rate was only
1.0 percent, which was more than eight times higher in
Pakistan (8.6 percent), six times in India (5.6 percent), four
times in Bangladesh (4.1) and Nepal (4.2). Data showed
Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
211
that the reduction rate of the under-five mortality was
faster from the year 2000 in all South Asian countries
except Pakistan. The performance of Pakistan in all
indicators is slower than the other four South Asian
countries. To consider this evidence, the aim of this study
was to show the contextual strategies of hunger reduction
in the South Asian countries. We would argue that this
would be in important guideline to other region or country
whose hunger index is comparatively high e.g., Sub-
Saharan Africa and other Asian countries.
Table 2: Hunger index in South Asia.
Indicators
Year
Country
Banglades
h
India
Nepal
Pakista
n
Sri
Lanka
GHI
1990
36.6
31.2
28.4
26.7
22.2
1995
34.4
26.9
26.8
23.3
20.2
2000
24.0
25.5
25.2
22.1
17.6
2005
19.8
24.2
22.2
21.0
16.8
2014
19.1
17.8
16.4
19.1
15.1
Proportion of undernourished in
the population (%)
1990-92
33.9
25.5
25.4
27.2
33.4
1994-96
36.7
24.9
26.8
23.2
30.2
1999-01
18.0
21.1
24.3
23.8
28.3
2004-06
15.3
21.5
21.8
22.2
28.0
2011-13
16.3
17.0
16.0
17.2
22.8
Prevalence of underweight in
children under five years (%)
1988-92
61.5
55.5
45.6
39.0
31.0
1993-97
55.2
44.8
42.6
34.2
28.3
1998-02
45.3
46.3
43.0
31.3
22.8
2003-07
37.3
43.5
38.8
30.8
21.1
2009-13
36.8
30.7
29.1
31.6
21.6
Under-five mortality rate (%)
1990
14.4
12.6
14.2
13.8
2.1
1995
11.4
10.9
10.9
12.6
2.1
2000
8.8
9.2
8.2
11.2
1.7
2005
6.8
7.5
6.1
10.1
1.3
2012
4.1
5.6
4.2
8.6
1.0
Source: Based on GHI 2014 (Grebmer
et al.,
2014)
Materials and Methods
The article was based on a content analysis method.
We followed the type of papers similar to those of Joffres
et
al.,
(2008), Islam and Hossain (2014), Islam and Cojocaru
(2016), and Islam and Mungai (2015). Content analysis is
the systematic description of behaviour asking ‘who’,
‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ questions within formulated
systematic rules to limit the effects of analyst bias (Islam
& Mungai, 2015). The search for relevant literature was
completed in two stages. First, we examined peer-
reviewed articles found in electronic databases (Academic
Search Premier, Academic Common, Aseline, Informit,
Ingenaconnect, ScienceDirect, Scopus, Social Science
Citation Index and Social Science Research Network
(SSRN), and PsycARTICLES) using keyword searches
including ‘hunger and related concepts’, hunger reduction’,
‘hunger trend in South Asia’, and ‘strategies of hunger
reduction’. We used the ‘snowball’ method for searching
the journal articles and published reports. Altogether, by
31 May 2015, we had read 80 articles and discarded 45. We
also reviewed relevant published and unpublished national
and international reports and documents including reports
published by International Fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP), UN
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Bank,
International Fund Policy Research Institute, World Bank,
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and UNDP.
Finally, we considered 22 articles and 13 reports which we
found more relevant for this article. Some of the significant
articles and reports are listed in the reference section.
Results and Discussion
The review results showed that there is no single or
specific strategy for hunger reduction in the South Asian
countries. We can see a number of hunger reduction
approaches initiated by the international institutions e.g.,
United Nations Development Group, International
Monetary Fund (IMF), World Food Programme (WFP), Food
and Agricultural Organization (FAO), International Fund for
Agricultural Development (IFAD), which are operating and
financing a number of international hunger projects. For
instance, the United Nations Development Group (2014, p.
6-8) introduced nutrition and health-based prevention and
treatment approaches, food and nutrition safety-net
approaches, smallholder farmer productivity-enhancement
Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
212
approaches, and multi-sector approaches as hunger
reduction strategies. The United Nations launched the
Zero Hunger Challenge (April 29, 2013), which has five
objectives: ensure every person has access to nutritious
foods, end childhood growth stunting, develop sustainable
food systems, increase the productivity and income of
small farmers, and prevent the loss and waste of food
(Borgen Project, n.d.). The World Bank (2014) introduced
poverty alleviation as a core strategy for hunger reduction.
The FAO (2014) argues that after sustained political
commitment at the highest level, with food security and
nutrition as top priorities, is a prerequisite for hunger
eradication. The FAO added that hunger reduction requires
an integrated approach, and need to include: public and
private investment to raise agricultural productivity; better
access to inputs, land, services, technologies and markets;
measures to promote rural development; social protection
for the most vulnerable, including strengthening their
resilience to conflicts and natural disasters; and specific
nutrition programmes, particularly to address
micronutrient deficiencies in mothers and children under
five.
The IFAD, WFP and FAO (2013) jointly emphasised the
effective policies and long-term political commitment for
hunger reduction. The policies aimed at enhancing
agricultural productivity and increasing food availability,
especially when the smaller agricultural stakeholders are
targeted, can achieve hunger reduction even where
poverty is widespread. When they are combined with
social protection and other measures that increase the
incomes of the poor families to buy food, they can have an
even more positive effect and spur rural development by
creating vibrant markets and employment opportunities,
and making possible equitable economic growth. A long-
term commitment to mainstreaming food security and
nutrition in public policies and programmes are the keys
to hunger reduction. Keeping food security and agriculture
on the development agenda through comprehensive
reforms, improvements in the investment climate,
supported by sustained social protection, is crucial for
achieving major reductions in poverty and
undernourishment. Our findings showed that most of the
South Asian countries emphasised on poverty alleviation
which was introduced by World Bank as one of the main
strategies of hunger reduction. The FAO, IFAD and WFP
(2002) jointly stated that a successful strategy for
alleviating poverty and hunger in developing countries
must begin by recognizing that they are mainly rural
phenomena and that agriculture is at the heart of the
livelihoods of the rural people. The following section
discussed the hunger reduction strategies of the four
South Asian countries e.g., Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and
Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh
The literature showed that Bangladesh has developed
and used a comprehensive strategy for hunger reduction.
The main interventions are improving maternal and child
nutrition, increasing primary school attendance and
reducing short-term hunger through school feeding. These
interventions helped to strengthen Government social
safety nets and make them more nutrition focused (WFP,
2014). The International Monetary Fund (IMF, 2013, p. 1)
reported that Bangladesh has increased its real per capita
income by more than 130 percent since its independence,
and has cut the poverty rate by 60 percent, and is well set
to achieve most of the millennium development goals.
Some of the underlying specific achievements include:
reducing total fertility rate from 7.0 to 2.7; increasing life
expectancy from 46.2 years to 66.6; increasing the rate of
economic growth from an average rate of four percent in
the 1970’s to six percent in the 2000’s. In this time, the
country increased the savings and investment rates from
below 10 percent each in the 1970’s to 24 percent
(investment rate) and 30 percent (savings rate); achieving
gender parity in primary and secondary education; and
more than tripled the production of rice (from 10 million
tonnes to 32 million tonnes). In evaluating of these
achievements, the IMF argued that Bangladesh achieved
near self-sufficiency in normal production years. The
country is now much more capable for handling the
natural disasters with a minimum loss of life. The IMF
further mentioned that the country reach this remarkable
progress despite numerous internal and external
constraints. The GHI 2014 mentioned that an active NGO
sector and public transfer programmes in Bangladesh
helped to reduce the child under-nutrition among the
poorest and improved the GHI score. Bangladesh regularly
monitors children’s nutritional status and has cut back
underweight in children from 62 percent in 1990 to 37
percent in 2011 (World Bank, 2014).
Haider M (2013) mentioned that apart from safety
nets, the improvement in hunger reduction is an outcome
of several policies and initiatives. For example, the budget
document in Bangladesh contains a separate entry for
nutrition. The Article 15 of the Bangladesh constitution
expects that the State will provide citizens with the basic
necessities of life, including food. In 2012, the Bangladesh
government had put a commitment towards food security
for all people of the country at all times. The Bangladesh
Integrated Nutrition Project (BINP) improved the
nutritional outcomes as of 1995. Later in 2002, the National
Nutrition Programme was launched. This initiative
included the Expanded Programmes on Immunization and
Vitamin A supplementation. Curtis (2011) argued that the
improvements in food production and food security were
significant factors for hunger reduction in Bangladesh. The
country is promoting around 30 social protection
programmes, involving over a dozen government
ministries, within the context of a national food and
nutrition policy which aims to ensure food security for all.
Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
213
Some other strategies such as food or cash-based
transfers to poor and vulnerable groups, the Food for
Education programme transfers food to low income
families upon enrolment of their children in primary
school, agricultural policies (more than double the
production of cereal grains since the country became
independent), access to credit, the provision of extension
services, government rice procurement and input subsidy
programmes, proliferation of a simple irrigation technology
- shallow tube wells, high degree of civil society
involvement in designing and implementing anti-poverty
interventions, and micro-finance movement contributed
towards hunger reduction in Bangladesh.
India
India has focused on the decentralised local level
programmes for hunger reduction. A range of programmes
and initiatives were launched by the central and state
governments in India. The country stressed three main
strategies e.g., poverty alleviation system, agricultural
development, and health care system. Ahluwalia (n.d.)
mentioned that India’s strategy for reducing poverty and
hunger has always placed a great deal of importance on
the agricultural sector, emphasizing the fact that 70
percent of the population live in rural areas and the
overwhelming majority of them depend upon agriculture as
their primary source of income. Acceleration of
agricultural growth, with a special focus on improving the
position of small farmers and extending the productivity
revolution to non-irrigated areas was seen as a critical
part of the country’s strategy for poverty alleviation. The
new strategy of food security in India was aimed at
‘maximizing the production of cereals’, and involved
building a solid foundation of food security on three key
elements, viz. (a) provision of an improved technology
package to the farmers; (b) delivery of modern farm inputs,
technical know-how and institutional credit to the farmers;
and (c) assurance of a remunerative marketing and pricing
environment for farmers (Acharya, 2009, p. 3).
India set up a comprehensive health care system,
which emphasised on improving nutrition, child health and
stabilizing environment. The GHI 2014 mentioned that
nutrition-specific interventions including the Integrated
Child Development Services Programme and the National
Rural Health Mission that were scaled up after 2006. The
aims of these programmes were to improve the health,
nutrition, and development of children. Under these
programmes, India established 1.4 million centres, and
started a community-based outreach and facility-based
health initiative to deliver essential health services to rural
India (Avula
et al.,
2013). Within the context of India’s
decentralized governance system, the state governments
have taken ownership of nutrition and tried to strengthen
delivery of targeted nutrition efforts. The state of
Maharashtra was the first of several to bring high-level
political and bureaucratic leadership to nutrition through
Nutrition Mission, a programme with greater flexibility and
freedom than usual (Gillespie
et al.,
2013). The efforts have
also been made to create an enabling environment for
nutrition. A number of the indirect factors such as the
National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, rural jobs
programme and reforms to the Public Distribution System
that distributes food to the poor, contributed to less hunger
in India.
Nepal
Even with a long term political unrest, Nepal’s hunger
reduction progress has been outstanding. Like Bangladesh,
Nepal has introduced a comprehensive strategy for hunger
reduction. The country developed partnerships with many
international organizations. The Nepal Multi-Year Feed the
Future Strategy 2011 to 2015 was the most successful
partnership project towards hunger reduction. The
strategy links agriculture, nutrition, and education as a
complete package to increase the economic resilience and
health of the vulnerable populations. The Ministry of
Agricultural Development (MOAD) and the Ministry of
Health and Population (MOHP) in the Nepal Government,
the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),
and the World Bank launched the food security initiatives
e.g., the Knowledge-based Integrated Sustainable
Agriculture and Nutrition Project (KISAN) and the
Agriculture and Food Security Project (AFSP). These
projects are working in the west, mid-west, and far-west
regions of the country.
The KISAN is a USAID funded ($20.4 million) five-year
project, which aims to improve food security, increase
income, and diversify diets for 160,000 disadvantaged rural
households, for about one million rural Nepalese, across
20 districts through integrated agriculture and nutrition
activities. The AFSP is also a five-year project that aims to
improve food security situation of 150,000 households of
the poor and marginal groups by increasing agricultural
production, livelihood options and household income, and
improving utilization of food (Government of Nepal, USAID,
GASFP, and World Bank, 2013). Other projects such as
‘Increasing Food Security and Nutrition for Indigenous
Communities in Nepal’ (Feed the Future, 2014a),
Commercial Farming Successes Break Poverty Cycle in
Nepal’ (USAID, 2014), and ‘Aquaculture Helps Women in
Nepal Improve Household Nutrition (Feed the Future,
2014b)’ all contribute in hunger reduction. However we can
see that an effective integration approach demonstrated a
strong focus on facilitating and institutionalizing, and
government-level coordination towards hunger reduction.
The remittance has emerged as one of the biggest
factors in poverty as well as hunger reduction in Nepal.
The country received remittance worth 434 billion rupees
(US$4.4 billion) in the fiscal year of 2012-13 from family
members working abroad. Nepal gets 25 per cent of its
gross domestic product (GDP) from remittance which is
the highest among the South Asian countries (Prasain,
Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
214
2014). It has played a key role at pulling people out of
hunger. The extra income has helped greatly in improving
civil health and nutrition.
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka mainly followed three strategies: a modern
health care system; universal education; and poverty
alleviation for hunger reduction. The UNICEF (2013)
reported that Sri Lanka developed a well health-care
system and an enabling environment. The country has a
committed group of professionals and organizations that
championed breastfeeding of infants, and adopted multiple
strategies for creation extensive awareness at all levels,
especially among mothers’ support groups. Nearly all
children receive vaccination against measles, TB and polio.
Ninety percent of households have access to clean water
and 97 percent of children go to school. Biesalski (2012, p.
200) stated that Sri Lanka is a good example of how
maternal and child mortality can be drastically reduced
when the various measures are undertaken by the
government. The Vitamin A supplements have been
distributed to 89 percent of children from 6 to 59 months
and 92 percent of households used the iodized salt. The
low maternal and neonatal mortality and low malnutrition
helped to reduce hunger in Sri Lanka. The free universal
health care and education that are provided by the
government have contributed towards the goals of the
universal primary education, promoting gender equality
and empowering women, reducing child mortality,
improving maternal health and combating HIV, malaria
and other diseases (Hearth, 2014). Further, Sri Lanka has
reduced the under-five mortality by encouraging and
expanding breastfeeding. The exclusive breastfeeding rate
among infants up to 6 months of age increased from 53
percent in 2000 to 76 percent in 20062007. The most
recent statistics show that 80 percent of babies in Sri
Lanka are breastfed within the first hour after birth. Sri
Lanka’s achievements in improving exclusive
breastfeeding rates are the result of high levels of political
commitment, and leading to protective legislation
(UNICEF, 2013).
The Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka (2010, p. 10)
reported that Sri Lanka has one of the highest ranks of all
the countries in Asia when its performance on the human
development index is compared relative to its performance
on GDP per capita. It was the result of the government’s
development framework which is known as
Mahinda
Chintana: Idiri Dakma
(Vision for a New Sri Lanka) which
aims at accelerating growth, with particular emphasis on
equitable development, recognizing that there has been a
perpetuation of income disparities both among income
earners and across geographic regions. It focuses on three
main areas e.g., achieving more equitable development
through accelerated rural development, accelerating
growth through increased investment in infrastructure,
and strengthening public service delivery. The country
followed the key elements of poverty reduction through the
‘Poverty Reduction Strategy (June 2002)’, ‘National
Framework for Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation
(June 2002)’ and ‘Regaining Sri Lanka (May 2003)’ (CEPA,
2004). Biesalski (2012, p. 199) commented that the country
has done an incredible job of fighting hunger and poverty
on virtually all levels. With nearly 2 million Sri Lankans
living abroad, the overseas employment has contributed
with foreign exchange and remittances in the amount of 10
percent of the country’s GDP in 2013. The economic
prosperity has been broadly shared. The real per capita
consumption of the bottom 40 percent grew between 2002
and 2009 by an average of 4.3 percent annually, compared
to 2.6 percent of the top 60 percent. As a result, inequality
in per capita consumption expenditure fell during this
period (World Bank, 2014).
Conclusion
The main objective of this paper was to explore the
contextual strategies of the hunger reduction in the South
Asian countries. We have shown that the present trend of
hunger and hunger reduction strategies are largely
associated with a number of interrelated factors such as
poverty, food insecurity, financial vulnerability, natural
and social disasters, and political commitment of the
government. Poverty was seen as one of the principal
dimensions that was interlinked with many other complex
issues. There are a number of limitations that we faced in
this study. One of the principal limitations was the lack of
literature, particularly on hunger reduction strategies in
the South Asian countries. We found a small number of
papers that are published in the scientific journals. Most of
the information for this study was gathered from the
international reports, but the big shortfall of these reports
was the lack of specific data on the South Asian countries.
Considering these limitations, we could say that this paper
provided a snapshot of hunger trends and hunger
reduction strategies in the five South Asian countries.
We found that besides the number of problems such
as high populations, socio-economic and political
problems, poverty, and disaster threats, the South Asian
countries’ overall hunger reduction performance is great
though there is still a large number of the population that
go hungry. The findings showed that the South Asia
reduced 12.5 percent GHI score in 25 years, which was
30.6 in 1990 and reduced to 18.1 in 2014. The performance
rate was the highest in Bangladesh (17.5 percent) among
five Asian countries, followed by India 13.4, Nepal 12.0,
Pakistan 7.6 and Sri Lanka 7.1 percent. The average
performance of Bangladesh was also better on three main
components of the GHI score. Bangladesh reduced 17.6
percent of the undernourished population from 1990-92 to
2011, followed by Sri Lanka 10.6, Pakistan 10.0, Nepal 9.4
and India 8.6. India’s performance was the highest (24.8
percent) among these five countries in reducing
prevalence of underweight children under-five years from
Islam et al. Transylvanian Review: Vol XXIV, No. 5, Special Issue, 2016
215
1998-92 to 2009, followed by Bangladesh 24.7, Nepal 16.5,
Sri Lanka 9.4 and Pakistan 7.4. Bangladesh again reduced
the highest (10.3 per cent) rate of under-five child mortality
from 1990 to 2012, followed by Nepal 10.0, India 7.0,
Pakistan 5.2, and Sri Lanka 1.1 percent.
Our results showed that the South Asian countries
followed the comprehensive and country-wise strategies
for hunger reduction. The common strategies were poverty
alleviation, effective health care system, improving
nutritional status, foreign remittance, and enabling
environment. From a country wise analysis, we found that
Bangladesh considered poverty alleviation as a synonym of
hunger reduction. The country introduced a number of
initiatives such as social safety net, partnership with the
non-government organizations for poverty alleviation and
income generation activities, improved nutritional status,
and agricultural production. India followed two important
strategies, such as high agricultural production and
comprehensive health care system. India introduced a
range of programmes on these two areas from the central
and state governments based on local level planning.
Nepal properly utilized the foreign resources through
partnership with international organizations and
successfully worked with the ‘Nepal Multi-Year Feed the
Future Strategy’ linked with agriculture, nutrition and
education. Sri Lanka utilised three main hunger reduction
strategies such as a good health care system, human
development framework, and improved enabling
environment. The Vision for a New Sri Lanka’ successfully
worked and helped to accelerate rural development,
growth through increased investment in infrastructure,
and strengthen public service delivery. We argued that
these strategies can be learning for other regions such as
Sub-Saharan Africa or other developing countries which
GHI scores are comparatively high.
The findings of this paper have great policy
implications at both the global and regional levels. The
findings have direct link with a number of the international
and regional development agendas, such as poverty
alleviation, food insecurity, social and economic inequality,
gender disparity and women empowerment, health and
child care system, and human development. From this
finding, we have seen that the improving food security and
nutrition through adequate investments, better policies
including social safety nets, and legal frameworks are
important for hunger reduction. The institutional reforms
are also needed to promote and sustain progress on
hunger reduction. We would believe that the South Asian
countries would be more benefitted if they develop
partnership with the international organisations such as
UNDP and FAO, who launched a campaign to address the
growing problem with a seven-point action plan
2
that
2
A seven-point action plan includes Conflict
resolution, post-conflict planning, post-conflict financing,
gender-responsive civilian capacity, women’s
includes targeted interventions, such as school-feeding
programmes, linking development outcomes to the impact
on hunger and providing staple foods to the poor.
The suggestions of the research are:
The South Asia is one of the most productive region in
the world where varieties of food and crops are grown. The
governments of these countries should put continues
supports towards food production with the growth of the
population. The most important task is move from political
commitment to action.
The government policies in the South Asian countries
need to make or break efforts to end hunger. A good
governance, including the rule of law, low levels of
corruption, and respect for human rights, is essential for
achieving food security. Nutrition is the most significant
for hunger reduction. Due to the lack of the health
consciousness and education, and bad food habits, many
people in the South Asian countries are suffering
malnutrition. However, the governments should increase
the health education services and community awareness
for healthy food practices.
The regional cooperation among the South Asian
countries would be more important. It is important for
Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh where the risk of the
seasonal food deficiency is high. The countries can
exchange the food supply and can follow the best examples
of the countries.
Poverty alleviation would be important aspect in this
region. The increase of population in the countries
especially in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh would be
significant. However, the shortages of food in the longer
period would be a significant consideration.
The South Asian region should increase more
international and regional cooperation. The countries need
to look the international aids and technologies.
The remittance has been proved as a significant
strategy for hunger reduction in the South Asian countries.
However, the countries need to look more opportunities in
this regard. This would help to provide employment and
financial facilities of the poor families. The governments
should provide the modern technology and industry based
training to the low educated people so that they can find
job in abroad.
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