1 Anganwadi, 1 caregiver, 50 children – saving young lives across India

1 Anganwadi, 1 caregiver, 50 children – saving young lives across India

Published on : October 14, 2020

The Anganwadi Services Scheme is one of the flagship programmes of the Government of India and represents one of the world’s largest and unique programmes for early childhood care and development. Anganwadi Services is under the umbrella Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme of the government.

The scheme was launched in 1975, discontinued in 1978 by the government, and then relaunched by the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07).

The ICDS scheme offers a package of following six services:

  • Supplementary Nutrition (SNP)
  • Pre-school Non-formal Education
  • Nutrition and Health Education
  • Immunisation
  • Health Check-up
  • Referral Services

The first 3 services - Supplementary Nutrition, Pre-school Education and Nutrition and Health Education are provided by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD). Immunisation, Health check-ups and Referral Services are related to health and provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through NRHM and Public Health Infrastructure.

For better governance in the delivery of the scheme and to ensure large impact of all the related services of ICDS - Anganwadi Centres were provided as a platform to provide all the services under a single umbrella.

Around 3-4% of the total Union Budget is allocated for children’s education, health, protection and development. The Ministry of Women and Child Development was allocated 0.98% of the Union Budget in '20-21 and 95% of the MoWCD budget goes to ICDS. In 2019-20, around 70% of the total ICDS budget (INR 17,705 Crore) was allocated for the services provided by the Anganwadi centres.

As seen above, supplementary nutrition and preschool education are some of the better recognised services provided by Anganwadis. But in rural areas particularly, they play a crucial role in immunisation programmes too.

The overall impact of the emphasis on ensuring better nutrition and healthcare for pregnant women and young children has shown some result over the years.

But more needs to be done. 50% women and 40% of the young children in India are anaemic making them susceptible to multiple malnutrition and health issues. There seems to be a significant connect between greater access to Anganwadis (fewer children per AWC) and better health of children :

The situation across the states is not uniform. Some states (mostly hilly and north-eastern) have a much better network of Anganwadis and have better results to show on children's health indicators. Some states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh could benefit from denser network of AWCs and better facilities ensuring focus on nutrition and immunization of children.

High prevalence of chronic and acute malnutrition – particularly among women and young children – has plagued India for decades. AWC infrastructure and model seem to be working well in some states. Can greater attention and improvement to this model help our women and children get healthier?

Our detailed report on AWS with 60+ reusable graphs is here: Anganwadi and child development

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