New survey by UN food agency identifies hunger "hot spots" in urban India

23 October 2002

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today released the results of a groundbreaking survey of hunger "hot spots" in India's vast and ever-growing urban populations in a bid to help poor people in cities achieve food security.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today released the results of a groundbreaking survey of hunger "hot spots" in India's vast and ever-growing urban populations in a bid to help poor people in cities achieve food security.

The "Food Insecurity Atlas of Urban India," a collaboration between WFP and the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, is the first publication to analyse food security in all of urban India, from large cities such as Mumbai or Delhi to slum dwellings in smaller towns. With a population of one billion, India has the highest absolute numbers of hungry people in the world.

"Urbanization is perhaps the most dominant demographic phenomenon of recent decades worldwide," said Mohamed Zejjari, the Special Representative to India of WFP Executive Director James Morris. "The urban population in developing countries has increased fivefold over the last 30 years; by 2025, there will be 600 million people living in urban areas in India alone."

The Atlas used 17 indicators to measure food insecurity, among them daily intake of calories, housing, illiteracy rates, infant mortality rate and life expectancy. The state of Madhya Pradesh was found to have the worst levels of food insecurity - as indicated by low food affordability, low access to income opportunities, sanitation and health facilities and nutritional outcome - followed by Uttar Pradesh.

The survey also shows that child malnutrition is very high in urban areas: 36 per cent of urban children are shorter than they should be for their weight and age, while 38 per cent are underweight. The largest percentage of stunted children are in the state of Bihar, while Madhya Pradesh has the largest percentage of severely underweight cases among children under three years of age.

The Atlas recommends that priority be given to the provision of safe drinking water and proper garbage disposal. The publication also focuses on children, urging early childhood care programmes such as the Government's Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Another recommendation is to set up school feeding programmes in both rural and urban areas to promote school enrolment and retention.