The Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) is one of the biggest child development programmes of the world. It is regarded as the most prominent symbol of the pledge of a healthy and normal life that the country has made to its children. Through this programme India aims to provide pre-school education to its children. The ICDS also deals with critical issues such as lack of proper nutrition, lesser capability to learn, morbidity, and a death rate that is much higher than several developed nations.
What is the aim of Integrated Child Development Services Scheme?
The ICDS aims to improve the health and nutritional well-being of the children in India under the age of six years. It also lays the basis so that children in India are able to develop psychologically, socially and physically. The programme also looks to bring down the rate of mortality, malnutrition and morbidity among children in India besides tackling the critical problem of children dropping out from schools. It aims to make sure that the various departments that are dedicated to promotion of child development pull in the same direction, i.e., they should be coordinated in terms of the policies in effect and also implement them optimally.
The scheme looks to empower mothers across the country by providing them proper education regarding health and nutrition. It is expected that this will help them properly look after the dietary and health-related needs of their wards. Most of the children in India belong to the underprivileged class, which is evident in the infant mortality rate of 44. In case of children younger than five years, the rate goes up to 93. One-fourth of the newborn babies in India are underweight. So, one can easily comprehend the enormity of the challenges that face this programme.
When was the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme launched?
The programme was initiated on October 2, 1975.
What is the funding pattern for Integrated Child Development Services Scheme?
The Indian Government is the main sponsor of the ICDS. However, the governments of the respective union territories and the states are tasked with carrying it out. Before 2005-06, the national government funded the entire programme with the exception of supplementary nutrition that the states and union territories were supposed to administer.
Several states were unable to meet the commitment owing to resource-related problems. This is why the Indian Government decided that it will provide 50 per cent of the expenses in either supplementary nutrition or financial norms depending upon the lesser amount.
Some changes were made to the funding pattern of the programme from the 2009-10 fiscal. In case of the northeastern states, the Indian Government started to bear 90 per cent of the expenses for the supplementary nutrition benefit and the respective state governments bore the rest of it.
However, the usual pattern of 50-50 continued for the other states and union territories. In case of the other components of the programme, the central government used to provide the entire fund previously but from 2009-10 onwards the state governments are also bearing 10 per cent of the costs.
How will Integrated Child Development Services Scheme be implemented?
The scheme focuses on a number of areas in order to execute the project properly. To start with, it provides supplementary nutrition and immunisation facilities. The beneficiaries of the programme can also count on getting health check-up and referral services on a regular basis.
The project is done in an integrated manner by combining various smaller projects since the authorities feel in that way the scheme will be more effective. There is also the underlying logic that the various services in the package will benefit if the others in the group perform well.
The supplementary nutrition facility is provided by anganwadi helpers and workers. The main target groups in this case are children below six years and lactating and pregnant mothers. The immunisation, health check-up, and referral services cater to the same population group as well. The pre-school education facility helps children between the age group of three to six years. In case of health and nutrition education, the targets are women between the age group of 15 to 45 years.
The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare provides the aforementioned services as part of its public health infrastructure facilities. As part of the nutrition facility the programme monitors the growth of its beneficiaries and provides complementary feeding facilities. Furthermore, it provides medicines such as prophylaxis in order to counter deficiency of vitamin A among the beneficiaries.
The programme also controls anaemia that happens from lack of proper food. The supplementary feeding assistance is provided for 300 days in a year. Through this facility the ministry looks to bridge the gap in calories between the average intake of women and children and the levels that are recommended by the national government for them. This is of immense assistance to low-earning and financially impoverished communities.
Monitoring and growth are two of the most important activities of this programme. Children, younger than three years, are weighed once every month and for children within the age group of three to six years, this exercise is undertaken once in three months. Growth cards are maintained for children younger than six years and here weight for age is noted down as well.
These records help the authorities detect if the children grow properly or not and get a proper idea of their nutritional condition. Children who are found to be suffering from severe malnourishment are normally referred for further medical services and also provided supplementary feeding.
Through the immunisation programme, the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme protects children from diseases such as polio, tetanus, diphtheria, tuberculosis, pertussis and measles. These are basically ailments that can be prevented through vaccines. This particular component also takes care of pregnant women.
The diseases mentioned already cause significant problems such as mortality, morbidity, disability and malnutrition among children. If pregnant women are immunised against tetanus it helps bring down the rate of neonatal and maternal deaths.
The health check-up facility is meant primarily for children who are younger than six years. Through this benefit, the authorities take care of the postnatal requirements of nursing mothers and provide antenatal care to women who are expecting. Apart from health check-ups on a regular basis, this programme records the weight of children, immunises them, looks after issues pertaining to malnutrition, provides treatment for diseases such as diarrhoea, de-worms them and provides basic medicines.
The referral services are provided in case it is found during the health check-up that children are undernourished or suffering from any ailment. To be precise, they should be in such a condition that they need to be provided medical care on an emergency basis. They are referred either to a primary health centre or a sub-centre of the same.
As part of the ICDS, the anganwadi workers are provided the necessary training so that they are able to find out problems in these children. Upon detection they file all these cases in registers meant especially for such purposes and then provide the reference to the concerned medical officer of the applicable healthcare unit.
The ICDS also provides preschool education (PSE) on an informal basis - in fact it is regarded as the very backbone of this scheme. The anganwadi centres or village courtyards are responsible for executing this particular part of the ICDS and as such have been instituted across the country. The national government is looking to spread its existence across all habitations in India and if actually realized, the number of anganwadi centres across India could go up to 1.4 million.
In a way, this can also be regarded as the most joyous daily activity of its kind in the ICDS programme. Apart from mobilising young children in the villages for the purpose of providing them the basic education, these centres generate considerable interest in their parents as well.
This is beneficial for the greater community and engages them positively for the betterment of the future citizens of the country. This particular facility also looks to ensure complete development of the beneficiaries till the age of six years when they can be enrolled to primary schools for further education. With the PSE programme, ICDS tries to create a stimulating, happy and usual environment for the students, who are supposed to be in the age group of 3-6 years. It enables them to achieve their fullest potential for development at that stage of their lives. This is also supposed to lay the foundation for their future development.
Through this programme the younger children in the families are also provided substitute care so that the elder ones can go to school. This programme specially benefits the girls in rural areas who are at times forced to choose their familial duties over education and consequent betterment.
Nutrition and health education or NHED is a major component of the work done by the anganwadi workers. It is a key part of the behaviour change communication (BCC) strategy and is an important long-term strategy as far as women empowerment is concerned.
This is especially applicable for women in the age group of 15 to 45 years. It makes sure that they are able to take care of their personal requirements such as health, development and nutrition. As a result of the aforementioned training, the beneficiaries are able to attend to similar requirements of their family members and children.
What are the population norms for the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme?
The population norms for establishing anganwadi centres, mini anganwadi centres and other components have undergone a change since the inception of the programme. As per the new norms, the community development blocks in each state are responsible for sanctioning the ICDS project in tribal and rural areas. The number of people living in the block or the amount of villages in its jurisdiction has no bearing on this. In case of the urban areas the criterion of one lakh people is applicable as before.
In addition to this, in case of blocks with more than two lakh people, the state governments have two options. They could go for two programmes with one programme each for every one lakh people. Else, they could choose a single programme. In this case the strength of the staff could be increased accordingly on the basis of the number of people living in the block or the number of anganwadi centres. In case of blocks where the population is less than a lakh, similar restructuring of staff could be done.
In the normal urban and rural areas, there is a provision to set up one anganwadi centre for 400-800 people, two for 800-1600 people and three for 1600-2400 people. In these areas, a mini anganwadi centre can be set up for 150-400 people. In the tribal, desert, riverine, hilly and other difficult areas, an anganwadi centre can be set up for 300-800 people and a mini anganwadi centre can be instituted for 150 to 300 people.