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The need to reopen anganwadis

  • IASbaba
  • December 6, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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HEALTH/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Issues relating to poverty and hunger. 
  • GS-2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections

The need to reopen anganwadis

In News: Being closed since the April 2020-lockdown, anganwadis are slowly reopening. 

What is the significance of anganwadis?

  • 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. 
  • The largest in the world, ICDS covers about 88 million children aged 0-6 years in India. 
  • Their closure significantly impacted service delivery and weakened an important social safety net.
  • Even as anganwadis resumed services, the closure has impacted their ability to serve as childcare centres.

What are the challenges faced by Anganwadis?

  • Despite being the primary information-source on nutrition, anganwadi workers can lack key knowledge.
  • Surveys conducted in 2018-19 found that among mothers listed with anganwadi workers, knowledge about key health behaviour such as complementary feeding and handwashing was low, at 54% and 49%. 
  • Anganwadi workers often do not have the support or training to provide early childhood care and education (ECCE)
  • Administrative responsibilities take up significant time, and core services like pre-school education are deprioritised. 
    • A typical worker spends an estimated 10% of their time — 28 minutes per day — on pre-school education, compared to the recommended daily 120 minutes. 
  • Anganwadis often lack adequate infrastructure. NITI Aayog found that only 59% of anganwadis had adequate seating for children and workers, and more than half were unhygienic.
  • These issues worsen in an urban context, with the utilisation of early childcare services at anganwadis at only 28%, compared to 42% for rural areas, according to NFHS-4 data. 

Way Ahead

  • As anganwadis reopen, we must prioritise interventions with a demonstrated history of success, and evaluate new ones. 
  • Studies in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh (and globally) have found that home visits, where volunteers work with children and caregivers, significantly improved cognition, language, motor development and nutritional intake while also reducing stunting.
  • Many States will have to improve career incentives and remuneration for anganwadi workers. One way to ensure they have more time is to hire additional workers at anganwadis.
  • Policymakers have tried linking anganwadis and primary schools to strengthen convergence, as well as expanding the duration of daycare at anganwadis. 
  • Reaching out to women during pregnancy can increase the likelihood that their children use ICDS services

Conclusion

  • As the world’s largest provider of early childhood services, anganwadis perform a crucial role in contributing to life outcomes of children across India. To improve these outcomes, we need to invest more significantly in anganwadis, and roll out proven innovative interventions.

Connecting the dots:

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