Qualitative Study on 36 Anganwadi Centres of LakhimpurKheri District, Uttar Pradesh

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Qualitative Study on 36 Anganwadi Centres of Lakhimpur Kheri District, Uttar Pradesh

 

Year 2016 – 2017

A study by

Vikas Singh

District Nutrition Specialist

LakhimpurKheri Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh Technical Support Unit (IHAT)

Key Words

Anganwadi Centre, AWC, Anganwadi Worker, AWW, Take Home Ration, THR, Nutrition,HosalaPoshanYojana, Pregnant women, Children, Hot Cooked Meal

Abstract

This paper is an attempt to discuss some ground realities of Aganwadi Centres situated in the largest district of Uttar Pradesh that is LakhimpurKheri. It talks about the overall condition of AWCs, be it infrastructure or services that are generally provided at centre. The Dataused in this paper was gathered from 36AWC’s of 4 rural blocks of the district on the basis of random sampling.

The overall infrastructure in general is found impaired and services were not running properly due to several financial and social reasons. Thus the paper will deeply investigate on sampled AWCs.

Introduction

ICDS is the world’s largest scheme started back in 1975 to deliver 6 basic yet vital services. The schemes can be identifiedas an updated version of Balbadi Scheme which was started by Government of India under its Social and Welfare Department in 1970. Although the scheme has been quite successful in years as improvement in birth weight, reduction in MMR, IMR and improvement in nutrition status of children have been recorded through many surveys and research papers. However in some statesthe scheme has not shown satisfactory results. And one such state is Uttar Pradesh. In many instances the State Government has been supported by many NGOs and independent organizations to scale up the performance of this ambitious program. Nevertheless the situation remained same or there have been some insignificant improvement in service delivery and implementation part.

India’s Child Nutrition status still remains very disappointing while some other Third World countries are doing way better than us. According to Nation Family Health Survey – 3 about 48% children under the age of 5 were found stunted. And about 44% children in India are malnourished. If the situation remains same as discussed in paper then the future of District’s (Uttar Pradesh’s in particular) Nutrition status doesn’t seem pleasing.

The study is a thorough exploration of current AWCs functioning and ICDS service implementation in selected Centres. The study is an attempt to discover if AWC possesses instruments and articles which it should have like weighing machine, growth chart etc. It also attempts to examine if the status of HosalaPoshanYojana.

Methodology

This was a purely qualitative study in which 36 different Aangawadi centres were chosen on the basis of random sampling. The selected centres belonged to 4 rural blocks of the district. Named Phulbehad, Isangar, Nighasan and Fardan.

This study followed a structured interview pattern in which aquestionnaire of 35 questions was carried by the interviewer at the time of AWC visit. The questionnaire was divided into four subdivisions of which each one dealt with a certain theme or service. All the questions in questionnaire were close ended in nature.

Interviewer spent a quality time at centre and observed the centre’s activities and its surroundings.

Findings

As I went to centres without prior information. I found many AWCs closed or not opened on scheduled time. Many of the AWWs were living in district headquarter which in some cases is 50 to 60 Km. far from the allotted centres. Astonishingly I found one AWC which was never opened since its inception. I went further and asked Sahayika about this then she shared that AWW never opens centre. Although she has been warned and instructed by her lady supervisor and CDPO many times but she refuse to follow their instructions. Nevertheless most of the centres were open.

I also found that AWWs lack basic knowledge of counselling and most of them are not clear on as to what kind of counselling should be given to a particular group of beneficiaries.

Many AWCs either don’t have weighing machine or the available machine is not functional.

Further I will explain every topic in detail

Infrastructure –

The overall infrastructure of AWCs is disappointing as many of the centres don’t possess their own building and are running in Primary School’s building. The centres those are running in Primary Schools are also not in a good condition because usually the administration of Primary School will give the most impaired room for AWCs. These rooms usually have cracks on floors and walls. These rooms are ideal place for reptiles like lizard and snakes to reside. 4 such centres were found during this study where children were afraid of sitting in the room because many times snakes and scorpions had been spotted in the room. The Children were forced to sit in open that too in scorching hot climate. These rooms don’t have toilets facility therefore children are left with no choice then defecating in open. Primary School also don’t have function toilets and in case if they have then they would not allow AWC’s children to use their toilets.

Situation turn worse when some AWCs don’t have any sort of infrastructure. 8 out of 36 AWWs are running their centres in open. Running a centre in open is always a challenge for AWW because a centre running in open will not have space to store THR (Take home ration) and other articles. AWW would have to carry many register (11 MIS registers and some more) from her house therefore many of the times she don’t bring registers with her. She also cannot always keep weighing machine with her ect. In raining season it is almost next to impossible for an AWW to run centre because of wet floor and no roof over their head. However some AWW’s are so dedicated to their work that they would walk 2 miles every day to open their centre.Even though some of them don’t have any sort of infrastructure.

It was also observed that centres that have their own AWC’s building are also not in good conditions. Most of the AWC’s buildings have started weakening. Toilets of these centres are not functional and even in some case if they are functional then they are not being used by children as they are not allowed to use them. The reason AWWs site is that children will make the toilet dirty. Centres are unhygienic and not kept clean. Even though AWWs have centre building but most of the AWWs don’t keep registers, THR and other articles at centre. They shared thatin many occasions local people had broken the lock and stole away THR and utensils that’s why they usually don’t keep things at centre.

Most of the AWC’s don’t have carpets, stools or chairs which can be used as an object to sit on. Children are forced to sit on bare floors. In winter floors would turn very cold which become a reason for children catching cold and fever. In rainy season the walls and roof would leak thus the whole room gets wet from inside. In this case also it is not safe for children to sit in such a room. For these reasons many parents are reluctant to send their children to centre.

Pre – School Education –

The concept of AWC also includes pre-school education which can be termed as early childhood care and education. The importance of early childhood education was recognized by GOI back in 1975 thus it had included Pre-School Education as one of the six ICDS services. But disappointingly the centres I visited cannot be called a place of pre-school education. Most of the centres don’t have black boards. And if black board is there then AWWs don’t use it as they won’t have chokes. Children are never given toys to play with. Although almost every AWW has PehalPustika a book which includes day wise pre-school activity, such as poems, stories and games etc. However very few AWWs have ever used it. The walls of the centre are usually empty and are not decorated with IEC material as per ICDS guidelines. AWC’s room don’t seem welcoming or warm. It is imaginable that children would learn anything in such centres.

Although 6 centres out of 36 were somehow doing some activities of pre-school education. In these centres I found AWWs were teaching poems and stories to children. Children also knew many poems and stories. They were able to differentiate between different birds and animals. In these centres AWWs were also very active and enjoyed teaching and engaging with children.

It was also found in the survey area of some AWWs that some families work as migrant labourers so in a particular season the family would migrate to some other places in the search of the means of their livelihood. So the children of such family are usually deprived of Pre-school education.

As I discussed above that in some cases parents of the children are also reluctant to send their children to centres because centre are dangerously weakened and having cracks in it which in future can have disasters results. Although these centre are in such a poor condition yet they are not marked dangerous.

Record Registers –

Although AWWs are given 11 MIS registers from department but they don’t know how to use them as AWWs are not trained on MIS registers. Basically AWWs will use few register out of these 11. Most the AWWs maintain their own registers as they are easy for them to fill.

Most of the AWWs have not received new registers and their old ones are filled therefore they are maintaining their own registers. Generally AWWs would fill 6 to 7 register which includes THR register, survey register, delivery register, Pre-school education register also known as attendance register and beneficiary registration register etc. Very few AWWs are maintaining daily dairy. AWWs also don’t know how to use Growth Chart Register hence they are not able to monitor the growth of the children.

Most of the AWWs don’t keep all the registers at the centre as they say that they are afraid that these registers can be stolen. Some centre don’t have proper space to keep the registers as some centre have leakage problem and some don’t have rack or Almirah.

Data Manipulation

  • It was found during visit that AWWs are manipulating data and real data is not been given to department. AWWs would manipulate THR records. They write that almost all the beneficiaries are taking THR which purely is a false data.
  • AWWs are not giving actual number of Mal-nourished or under-weight children. All the AWWs are instructed by their officials that they should mark more number of children as Mal-nourished. Siting one example from one of the visits where one AWW said that in actual only 5 children are Malnourished in survey areas but her supervisor instructed her that she should mark 14 children as malnourished in her survey areas. Thus she recorded 14 children as malnourished while in actually only 5 children suffered malnourishment. This manipulation of data happened with almost every AWW. So trusting government data is also a matter serious debate.
  • Usually few children would come to centre but AWWs will record more attendance on attendance register.

Hot cooked meal and THR –

Though hot cooked meal and THR is an integral part of ICDS services. However despondently no centre was serving hot cooked meal to children except a centre where AWW with her own money was feeding children with meal. This is not a fault from AWWs part but department has not given funds for hot cooked meal since many months.

Sometimes I would also happen that AWWs won’t receive THR from block. In such times most of the children would not come to centre because there is nothing to attract them to centre.

Centre which had THR packets they would distribute it to children at the closing time of the centre (As per ICDS norm it should be distributed as a morning snack) because they found this to be the only way to retain children at centre for a longer duration

HoslaPoshanYojan –

HoslaPoshanYojan is a highly ambitious program of Uttar Pradesh Government which came into existence last year in 2016. The program was intended to fight malnutrition among pregnant women and children. But as far as the observations of this study suggests it is not hard to postulate that the program will not show expected results as the implementation of program is not proper.

Many centres have not received funds for HPY. And the ones those have the funds are having other issues which is hindering the smooth execution of the program. In many centres AWWs from ST or OBC communities are appointed therefore people from General caste would not go to take HPY services in which pregnant women and children are supposed to receive a hot meal at the centre with some amount of Ghee. So caste plays a major role in villages which abstain pregnant women and children from consuming HPY meal. In some centre village’s headman or Pradhan will not release funds which is becoming an impediment in the execution of program. At one centre I found that village Pradhan’s son will come to centre every day and note down the attendance of pregnant women and children present for HPY.AWW shared that earlier when the program was just started he (village Pradhan) released some funds but after that Pradhan never gave even a single rupees to AWW for HPY. Therefore she was not able to cook hot cooked meal. The issue of Pradhan was prevalent in many other centres.

AWWs also suggested that because HYP doesn’t cover whole section of beneficiaries so the left out beneficiaries would create disturbance and blame her for stealing their food. Sometimes they would even fight with AWW that if a certain person is receiving the service then why they are kept out of it.

Conclusion

In conclusion I would like to postulate that the infrastructure of AWCs is pathetically poor and becomes one of the major reasons of improper delivery of ICDS services. Because of lack of good and proper infrastructure children are not coming to centre, things are not kept in centre, children are not receiving Pre-schools education, children are not weighed on regular basis and their growth is not monitored.

These AWCs cannot be called a place where children would learn about health and hygiene rather they are so badly maintain that children would get infection while sitting in the centre. Hygiene is not given importance while distributing snacks to children. Many children would eat snacks on dirty plastic bag which they would get from outside which is enough to make them sick.

Without Hot cooked meal it is impossible to fight hunger and malnutrition because for most of the children it would have been the only decent meal they would have eaten in a day if the hot cooked meal had been distributed. It seems outlandish to imagine improvement in the nutritional level of the children without hot cooked meal. If the department fails to maintain the supply of hot cook meal then the project will not have good results.

Data manipulation is also a major issue which will affect project in long run because when government will not get actual data then strategies which will be planned in future will not be practical on ground or in community.

If the situation remains same as discussed above then ICDS Uttar Pradesh will not be able to perform well at the national level and will not achieve desired results

Recommendations

Although ICDSis a significant project which has really shown some impressive results at national level as it became instrumental in fighting malnutrition. However in the context of Uttar Pradesh the same picture says opposite story. UP still lacks behind in almost every indicator.

As far as this study is concerned I would like make some suggestions which may play a significant role in developing new strategies.

In this course of my study I fund found that some of the Anganwadi workers are rendering their services sincerely. Some of them were walking 2 to 3 miles every day just to open the centre even though one of them didn’t even have a centre building yet everyday she was opening her centre in open. And surprisingly she had a considerable number of children attending centre. If these sincere works are given proper infrastructure, quality training on MIS registers, pre-school education and counselling then they would be able to give quality services to their beneficiaries.

A proper infrastructure itself can increase service delivery and indicators by 30% to 40%. Why I say 30 to 40 percent because almost every service is somehow or the other is directly or indirectly linked with infrastructure. A good infrastructure will accommodate every article which should be there at centre, it will attract children to the centre.

Government should also focus on developing some ideal AWCs where it should have all the facilities including a kitchen garden (as many AWCs in Karnataka have).

Funding and delivery of hot cooked meals should be ensured throughout the year so that children can meet their daily nutrition needs. Along with hot cooked meal government should also distribute some dry fruits, nuts and other edibles to children as (Uttarakhand government does). This will definitely increase the attendance of the children and will help in reducing malnutrition among children. If the department is somehow not able to ensure daily quality hot cooked meal then there can be one simple solution to it. Most of the AWCs are running in Primary Schools or nearby Primary school. Department can come with an idea that the same food which is being cooked for primary school children as mid-day meal can also be served to AWC’s children (Though it won’t have all the nutritious ingredients which that would have otherwise get if the hot cook meal was served at the centre as per ICDS norms yet at least the mid-day meal will meet some of their nutritious needs). Or government can take help from some Independent organizations like AkshayPatrawhich delivers quality food to the children in primary schools in many parts of the country and also in Uttar Pradesh.

HosalaPoshalYojana is a worthy initiative but linkage of Pradhan in the project is hindering its proper implementations, caste and class also plays a major role in rural set up. Therefore government should directly transfer the funds in the account of beneficiaries. Though the question may arise that what if beneficiaries are not using it for the purpose it was meant to be used (Yes it may be the case) but as far as I believe through my field experience it is the only option which can ensure better service delivery. Otherwise the whole concept of Pradhan in the project should be removed.

Last but not the least government should also conduct quarterly or biannually audit of the program so that prevalent wrong practices can be recognized and issues can be resolved. Lady Supervisors and CDPOs should be more supportive to AWWs for better service delivery than keeping themselves busy in ill practices. If these wrong practices are stopped then there will be a huge improvement inthe service delivery and nutrition indicators.

References

  • National Family and Health Survey – 4
  • National Family and Health Survey – 3
  • RajyaPoshan Mission
  • Uttar Pradesh ICDS
  • Unicef India
  • https://icdsupweb.org/hindi/

Email Id – vikas.singh7hk@gmail.com

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