Appeal to ramp up anganwadi services

Students being enrolled at an anganwadi in Coimbatore recently.  

The government must make efforts to ramp up services offered at anganwadis to make up for lost time, say experts after the Centre announced its decision to reopen anganwadis across the country after a gap of seven months.

On November 11, the Ministry of Women and Child Development issued an order allowing the States to reopen anganwadis outside containment zones with immediate effect.

“Provision of essential services such as Growth Monitoring Referral, and supplementary nutrition, etc. to ensure the health and well-being of the pregnant ladies, lactating mothers and children below five years is most important. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative to ensure that the beneficiaries do not suffer and remain away from anganwadi services,” read the letter sent to various State governments.

‘Welcome move’

“The government’s decision to reopen anganwadis is a welcome move. The epidemiology of COVID-19 shows that children are less affected by it. At my hospital too, we have seen that most patients who test positive are adults. At the same time, anganwadis benefit the most vulnerable children such as those in urban slums or tribal population of rural areas, who don’t have any other government programme to support their nutritional requirement barring anganwadis,” says Dr. Maroof Khan, Associate Professor at GTB Hospital in Delhi, and Secretary, National Working Group of Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM).

He said anganwadis were the focal point where many essential services were imparted, such as vaccination. “Experience from Ebola shows us how disruption in vaccination led to measles outbreak.” Health Ministry data showed that these services were severely hampered during the lockdown.

“It is of utmost important that service delivery is accelerated so that we can catch up on lost time,” he added.

The government order allows States to formulate their SOPs to ensure reopening of anganwadis, including offering a choice between distributing take-home ration either at anganwadis or delivering them at homes. It also requires anganwadi workers to allow children to the day-care centre on rotation in order to avoid crowding. It has also shared protocols for supporting children who test positive for COVID-19.

“It is a positive move by the government and steps should be taken to ensure that anganwadis don’t become sites of transmission of infection. The move should also enable anganwadi workers to record anthropometric data of children and monitor their growth, which has been affected since the nationwide lockdown was announced in March. This data will help inform policy interventions for vulnerable populations,” says Professor Dipa Sinha of Ambedkar University-Delhi. She is also a member of the Right to Food Campaign.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 2:24:38 PM |

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