Anganwadis In India Saw Major Disruptions During Covid 19

Anganwadis In India Saw Major Disruptions During Covid 19

How has been the nutrition related activities of the Anganwadis in Covid 19 times? In the hardship days of Covid 19, Anganwadi Centre (AWC) based nutritional service continued to see disruptions with 43 per cent of households with pregnant or lactating women (PLW) facing challenges in receiving food from the centre.

This finds mention in the new Niti Aayog report “Evidence-based response to ECD during the COVID-19 crisis”.

The report points out that 47 per cent of households with a child aged 15 months to six years reported that they were receiving less or no food from AWCs. There were pockets of households that reported an increase in their child’s weakness (six per cent), with an increased concentration in rural parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan, and in BPL and Antyodaya families.

The Niti Aayog also mentioned a decrease in time spent on undertaking various nutrition-related activities. For example, only 47 per cent of Anganwadi Workers (AWW) reported spending more time providing take-home rations to children/PLW even though 95 per cent of them reported they were no longer providing hot cooked meals.

CAREGIVING AND LEARNING SUPPORT

The report of Niti Aayog states that the parents had to bear a greater share of learning and care giving without much support. One in five parents reported spending more time on care giving with their children. Several parents also reported challenges related to not being able to give enough time and attention to their children and had using stricter disciplining techniques, the report pointed out.

It also noted that use of technology increased among children. One third of children started watching videos / playing games on the TV / phone computer for the first time following the start of the pandemic in March 2020. “This is also true for children 2 years of age, when screen exposure especially passive technologies are known to be harmful for the cognitive development of children,” the report said.

It said that 65 per cent of the parents with a child aged 3-6 years of age faced challenges in continuing their young children’s learning at home. The greatest challenges included a lack of time due to work (23 per cent) and issues with technology (19 per cent). Challenges were exacerbated in the case of rural households, Antyodaya households, and parents who reported increased stress. The report notes that one in four AWWs also reported of not receiving necessary training support for conducting remote learning activities.

LACK OF SUPPORT

Over one in five parents reported feeling more stress or fatigue during the pandemic. The most commonly cited drivers of stress included fear of COVID-19 infection (74%), followed by loss of work/income/ wages (61%), and disruption of learning/ care for their children (41%).

Nearly half of surveyed ASHAs and 36 per cent of AWWs reported working longer hours, and 34 per cent and 38 per cent respectively reported increased stress levels

RECOMMENDATIONS
  1. Where needed, community level drives can help ensure that children are attending AW Cs.
  2. Make efforts to sustain the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives post pandemic. These interactions are particularly influential during the first three years of life, when brain growth is most rapid in children.

Niti Aayog conducted the study in a bid to understand the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on young children and their caregivers. Data collection was done between December 2020 and February 2021 across selected states in India.

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