Anganwadi is a type of rural child care centre in India. They were started by the Government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition. Anganwadi means "courtyard shelter" in Hindi. A typical Anganwadi center provides basic health care in a village. It is a part of the public health care system. Basic health care activities include contraceptive counseling and supply, nutrition, education and supplementation, as well as pre-school activities. As we know that healthy mother and child are important by-products of processes leading to development of any nation, their health being monitored globally as markers of human development.
Coming to the ICDS, Integrated Child development Service (ICDS) scheme started by the Government in 1975 is a multi-sectoral endeavour which aims at integrated delivery of a package of services for children of 0–6 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers and adolescent girls from disadvantaged sections belonging to poorest of the poor families. Under the program, a trained female known as Anganwadi (Courtyard) Worker (AWW) along with an assistant (Anganwadi helper-AWH), worked in an Anganwadi Centre (AWC), each catering to fixed numbers of community members based on certain predetermined criteria. Together, they were responsible for bridging the service utilization gap between the vulnerable groups and healthcare system.
The main objective of the program was to improve the nutrition and health status of the children below 6 years, by providing supplementary nutrition & immunization; laying the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child through preschool education; reducing the incidence of disease burden through proper referral; and enhancing the capacity of mothers to take care of themselves as well as their children through health education.
Thus, for the attainment of ICDS scheme goals, the Anganwadi worker at each AWC needs to be equipped with adequate infrastructure, functional equipment, tools and drugs. Furthermore, she should be aware of the norms regarding nutrition and other key services to be provided under the scheme. Success of any program depends on proper planning and its effective implementation. ICDS program though well conceptualized definitely has some implementation issues. Most of these revolve around the AWW and the AWC itself, a factor that assumes a pivotal place in the scheme of things due to its close and continuous proximity to the beneficiaries.
Coming to the actuality of these Anganwadi centers and after considering the facilities and services being provided at the Anganwadi Centers (AWCs) by the Anganwadi workers, there we witness a lack of facilities at the AWCs and poor knowledge of Anganwadi workers.
Beyond doubt, ICDS has not delivered the desired results. The underlying issues could be related to infrastructural problems, lack of utilization due to poor awareness about the program, faulty supervision and monitoring mechanisms, corruption in food supplies etc. Thus a regular training and supportive supervision of the Anganwadi workers is highly recommended along with the availability of adequate facilities and infrastructures.
(Author is PhD Research Scholar, Department of Law, University of Kashmir. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)