The need to reopen anganwadis

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The need to reopen anganwadis

  • Karnataka, Bihar and Tamil Nadu are opening or considering opening their anganwadis shortly.
  • The anganwadis were closed since the April 2020-lockdown.
  • Their closure significantly impacted service delivery and weakened an important social safety net.

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.