It is good news that Bangladesh has moved 13 notches up from last year's 88th position, ranking 75th out of 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020. We commend the government for making this progress. We did better than Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, particularly in the agriculture sector. However, we are lagging far behind Sri Lanka and Nepal among the South Asian countries in combating hunger. The report also mentioned that Bangladesh has a level of hunger that is "serious".
The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators—undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. Although the government, along with national and international NGOs, have been working hard to overcome these four obstacles to free the nation of hunger, we still have a long way to go. Data between 1991 and 2014 for Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan shows 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. Also, the rates of child mortality and undernourishment are still quite high in these countries.
While Bangladesh has made extraordinary progress in reducing extreme poverty over the last few decades—between 2000 and 2018, the proportion of the population living below the international poverty line dropped from 34.5 percent to 11.3 percent—still, approximately 20 million people are trapped in poverty in the country. To free this large population from the curse of hunger and poverty, our poverty eradication programmes need to be strengthened through innovative and multi-dimensional approaches.
Although, according to the GHI report 2020, we did better in the agriculture sector, it has to be noted that the report has not presented the impact of Covid-19 on hunger and undernutrition. The pandemic and this year's devastating floods have created much uncertainty in the employment sector and in food production, which will undoubtedly increase hunger and poverty in the country, as influential think tanks of the country have predicted. Since the pandemic has undermined food and nutrition security for many, its effects will likely ripple into the future. This means special attention needs to be given to increase and diversify our food production and to reduce hunger, undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality.