Updated: March 18, 2020 5:49:20 pm
Days after the state government issued an order to shut anganwadi centres till further orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, lack of clear directions to district authorities has led to confusion and concerns about schemes not reaching undernourished children, lactating and nursing mothers.
While some district authorities, including Mumbai, Amravati, Yavatmal and Beed, instructed such centres in their jurisdiction to shut down, a few others have informed anganwadi workers to deliver food home.
In Palghar, which has not registered a single case of COVID-19 so far, anganwadi workers have been directed to deliver cooked food to houses of lactating and nursing mothers in villages with a tribal population as they are prone to malnourishment. At a few other places where anganwadis have been closed, parents have been told to pick up nutritional food for their children from the centres.
“We have written to the Women and Child Development (WCD) department that the anganwadis should not be shut altogether as they cater to those in need of the nutritious food. Also, there is no clarity on how the anganwadi workers need to go about delivering the food and if any measures to prevent the spread of the disease, like masks and sanitisers, will be provided to the children,” Shubha Shamim of Aganwadi Karmachari Sanghatana said. “The immunity of those benefiting from the scheme if compromised will adversely make them more vulnerable to COVID-19,” she said.
There are over a lakh anganwadi and mini-anganwadi centres in the state and two lakh anganwadi workers who under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) provide benefits including free, nutritious meals to children, supplementary nutrition, healthcare and non-formal pre-school education.
“The pre-school education can remain suspended until the crisis is over. But those children with SAM (severe acute malnourishment) and MAM (moderate acute malnourishment) identified by anganwadi workers need to be provided food directly to their homes to ensure that the vulnerable are not left in lurch. There may be some children who are not in need of the food at the anganwadi centre, but the very fact that such a scheme exists shows that there is need to ensure it reaches to those individuals in need of it or it will eventually have an effect on their health,” said activist Brian Lobo from Palghar.
Indra Mallo, the ICDS commissioner, said currently the district authorities are awaiting advisory from the WCD department and till then district authorities are taking appropriate steps at their level. “A proposal has been sent to the WCD department to ensure that while social gatherings should be discouraged, all required nutrition and necessary home visits should be continued. We are hoping a decision will be taken soon so that the schemes can continue,” a senior official handling the ICDS scheme said.
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