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The need to reopen anganwadis

Context:

Being closed since the April 2020-lockdown, anganwadis are slowly reopening. Those in Karnataka, Bihar and Tamil Nadu are opening or considering opening shortly. As part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), anganwadis play a crucial role in supporting households, particularly from low-income families, by providing childcare, health and nutrition, education, supplementary nutrition, immunisation, health check-up and referral services.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to education, Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Initiatives, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Anganwadi Centres
  2. Significance of Anganwadis
  3. Impacts of Anganwadis Closure
  4. Benefits of Reopening Anganwadis
  5. Myriad challenges before Anganwadis
  6. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

Anganwadi Centres

  • Anganwadis or day-care centres are set up under the centrally sponsored Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme.
  • The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Anganwadi centres provide a package of six services: supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, immunisation, nutrition and health education, as well as referral services.
  • The primary aim of the scheme is to reduce infant mortality and child malnutrition.
  • Beneficiaries of these centers will be Children in the age group of zero to six years, and pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • It was started by the Government of India in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.
  • The beneficiaries under the Anganwadi Services Scheme are identified on the basis of Aadhaar.
  • In Indian languages, the word anganwadi means “courtyard shelter.” They began in 1975 as part of the Indian government’s Integrated Child Development Services initiative to tackle child hunger and malnutrition.
  • Anganwadi Services aims at holistic development of children below 6 years of age and pregnant women & lactating mothers providing a package of six services comprising:
    1. Supplementary nutrition
    2. Pre-school non-formal education
    3. Nutrition and health Education
    4. Immunization
    5. Health check-up
    6. Referral services through Anganwadi Centres at grassroots level.
  • Three of the six services viz., immunization, health check-up and referral services are related to health and are provided by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through NRHM & Public Health Infrastructure.

Significance of Anganwadis

  • Anganwadis are part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and provide childcare, health and nutrition, education, supplemental nutrition, immunisation, health check-ups, and referral services to households, particularly those from low-income families.
  • ICDS covers over 88 million children aged 0 to 6 years in India.
  • Anganwadi workers were a key source of nutrition advice for families, according to IDinsight surveys.

Impacts of Anganwadis Closure

  • Shutdown of Anganwadi services had a severe impact on service delivery and jeopardised a vital social security net.
  • Even though anganwadis have reopened, their capacity to serve as childcare centres has been harmed.
  • According to statistics from the National Family Health Service (NFHS)-5, less than 15% of five-year-olds attended any kind of pre-primary education in 2019-20.
  • Home-schooling was indicated by 58 percent of women in our COVID-19 rural household surveys as the main cause of an increase in unpaid work.

 

Benefits of Reopening Anganwadis

  • Anganwadis can help children reach their full potential by serving as platforms for early childhood education and nutrition support.
  • Women’s time will be freed up, especially for economic activities, if younger children are sent to anganwadis.
  • The National Education Policy, 2020, places anganwadis at the centre of the push to universalise access to early childhood care and education (ECCE).

Myriad challenges before Anganwadis

  • Lack of Skill Set: Despite being the major source of nutrition advice, anganwadi staff may be lacking in technical skills.Knowledge of critical health behaviours such as complementary feeding and handwashing was poor among mothers listed as anganwadi workers.
  • Lack of Resources: Anganwadi personnel frequently lack the resources or training necessary to deliver ECCE.
  • Lack of Time: Administrative obligations consume a large amount of time, and fundamental services such as pre-school education suffer as a result.
  • Lack of Infrastructure: Infrastructure is frequently lacking in anganwadis. According to NITI Aayog, only 59% of anganwadis had enough seating for children and employees, and more than half were unsanitary.
  • Issues in Urban Areas: According to NFHS-4 statistics, the use of early childcare services at anganwadis in urban regions is just 28 percent, compared to 42 percent in rural areas.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

  • The scheme was started in 1975 and aims at the holistic development of children and empowerment of mother. It is a Centrally-Sponsored scheme.
  • The scheme is under the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • The chief objectives of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme are as follows:
    • To improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years;
    • To lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child;
    • To reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout;
    • To achieve effective co-ordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development; and
    • To enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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