The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme is the world’s largest early child development program . Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is the only major national program that addresses the needs of children under the age of six years. Because the health and nutrition needs of a child cannot be addressed in isolation from those of his or her mother, the program also extends to adolescent girls, pregnant women and nursing mothers . It was initiated in 1975 as a small beginning in 33 blocks in the country.
Universalization of the ICDS was originally contemplated to be achieved by the end of 1995-96, through the expansion of services all over the country . ICDS services are provided through a vast network of ICDS centres, better known as “Anganwadis”. The term “Anganwadi’” developed from the idea that a good early child care and development centre could be run with low cost local materials even when located in an ‘angan’ or courtyard .
The Anganwadi (AW), literally a courtyard play centre, is a childcare centre located within the village or the slum area itself.
It is the focal point for the delivery of services at community levels to children below six years of age, pregnant women, nursing mothers and adolescent girls. Besides this, the AW is a meeting ground where women’s/mother’s groups can come together, with other frontline workers, to promote awareness and joint action for child development and women’s empowerment.
All the ICDS services are provided through the AW in an integrated manner to enhance their impact on childcare.
Each AW is run by an Anganwadi Worker (AWW) supported by a helper in integrated service delivery, and improved linkages with the health system – thus increasing the capacity of community and women – especially mothers – for childcare, survival and development . There are 8.3 lakh operational Anganwadis in India, as of 31st March, 2007. “Anganwadi is a government sponsored child-care and mother-care center in India. It caters to children in the 0-6 age group. The word means “courtyard shelter” in Hindi. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.” (Deshmukh P R 2008)
Focal Point for Delivery of ICDS services – Anganwadi
Anganwadi center is the focal point of delivery of services under the ICDS scheme. So as a core objective in the eleventh five years plan (Eleventh five year plan 2007-2012).ICDS with its multisectoral approach provides its services Under the three broad headings viz: •Nutrition
•Health & Education.
While performing various different types of functions, it is obvious that amongst the different services provided by Awws the best knowledge about the component of nutrition and health education. The programme provides an integrated approach for converging basic services through community-based Anganwadi Workers and helpers, supportive community structures/women’s group -through the Anganwadi Centre, the health system and in the community. Besides this, the AW is a meeting ground where women’s/mother’s group can come together, with other frontline workers, to promote awareness and joint action for child development and women’s empowerment. The population coverage through the Anganwadi Worker is approximately 1000 in rural and urban areas. (Das D 2006)
Researches on ICDS
In the past, a large number of research studies have been conducted to evaluate and assess the impact of the programme on the beneficiaries. At the national level, there have been only two evaluations of ICDS scheme, one conducted by National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD) in 1992, and the second conducted by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in 1998. Few studies on stabilisation of the programme; quality control and enhancing the social and economic empowerment of disadvantaged women; awareness about the value of the programme are also available.
It can be seen that most of the studies have provided only piecemeal information and have not taken systematic stock of the delivery of inputs vis-à-vis output; nor have these studies investigated the impact of services on the target groups in a comprehensive and coordinated fashion. These studies also have not provided ample evidence on interdependence of various variables related to implementation of the programme and its impact on the target groups. Coverage of sample has also been limited leading to inability to generalize. Several valuable lessons have been learnt through these studies. Nonetheless the need for a comprehensive investigation to assess ICDS programme at the national level was considered most desirable since it has now been in operation for more than three decades. Objectives:
The objectives of the scheme are :
To improve the nutritional and Health status of pre-school children in the age- group of 0-6 years; To lay the foundation of proper psychological development of the child; To reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school drop-out; To achieve effective coordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development; and To enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education..
Package of Services :
ICDS delivers a package of services comprising supplementary nutrition, immunization, health check-ups, referral services, and health and nutrition education to children under 6 years of age, pregnant and nursing women, and pre-school education to children between 3 and 6 years of age. Thus it adopts a holistic approach to improved child development by reduced incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school drop-outs. The integrated package of services offered under the ICDS addresses all three issues of concern i.e. care factors (through the education/information component), health, and to a lesser extent, household food security (through supplementary feeding). A detailed description of the ICDS is provided in Jennings et al. (1991).