Plugging the design gaps in ICDS for all children -Dipa Sinha

-DNA

The Niti Aayog’s recent report on ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ rightly recognises that the multidimensional determinants of undernutrition are inadequately reflected in policymaking. It argues that there must be convergent action with annual health, nutrition and sanitation plans being made in an integrated manner for all districts. In the case of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which is the main programmatic platform through which nutrition outcomes are to be achieved, the report finds that its focus on the first 1000 days of the child’s life is inadequate. It argues that while children under 2-3 years of age must be given highest priority in nutrition interventions, much of the ICDS interventions are focussed on the delivery of services to children in the age group of 3 to 6 years. While the diagnosis is not entirely wrong, the recommendations at the end of the chapter do not show an adequate understanding of what needs to be done to correct this situation.

The Niti Aayog’s recent report on ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ rightly recognises that the multidimensional determinants of undernutrition are inadequately reflected in policymaking. It argues that there must be convergent action with annual health, nutrition and sanitation plans being made in an integrated manner for all districts. In the case of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which is the main programmatic platform through which nutrition outcomes are to be achieved, the report finds that its focus on the first 1000 days of the child’s life is inadequate. It argues that while children under 2-3 years of age must be given highest priority in nutrition interventions, much of the ICDS interventions are focussed on the delivery of services to children in the age group of 3 to 6 years. While the diagnosis is not entirely wrong, the recommendations at the end of the chapter do not show an adequate understanding of what needs to be done to correct this situation.

Researchers and activists have been making the same point for many years now. There is a consensus that there is a need to better reach the younger child. In the current model of the ICDS, where it is largely centre-based with part-time workers, this is not possible. The FOCUS report, 2006, recommended that every anganwadi centre must have two workers, with the primary responsibility of the second worker being the care of children under three years of age and pregnant and lactating women. In a number of subsequent reports, not just the Right to Food campaign but even UN bodies and the Planning Commission have made similar recommendations.

There has been a tremendous expansion in the ICDS following Supreme Court orders in 2006 directing that anganwadi services be universalised. The number of anganwadi centres in the country grew from about 6.5 lakhs in 2006 to almost 14 lakhs currently. The coverage of children under six receiving any ICDS services increased from 28 per cent children in 2005-06 (NFHS-3) to 54 per cent in 2015-16 (NFHS-4). However, although there has been this quantitative expansion in the programme as much attention has not been paid to improving the quality as well as addressing the design gaps.

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DNA, 11 January, 2019, https://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-plugging-the-design-gaps-in-icds-for-all-children-2706454/amp?fbclid=IwAR1Ffh84FPy4oiDDpKKvEKfMkDoX4Z26w3gjHu5ZPD25WB900OzhN95E56w

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