ICDS Scheme

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The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme is a government initiative for the all-round development (health, nutrition and education) of children under 6. Its aim is to reduce infant mortality, child malnutrition and to provide pre-school education. PACS has been working to improve the non-discriminatory access of mothers and children, especially those from socially excluded groups, to these services.

What is the Integrated Child Development Services scheme?

Launched by the Government of India in 1975, the ICDS scheme is today one of the world’s largest and most unique programmes for early childhood development. Its aim is to provide nutritional support, healthcare and pre-school education for children under 6 (and for pregnant or lactating mothers) in order to reduce the incidence of mortality, malnutrition and school dropout.

Under the ICDS scheme, children under 6 and pregnant or lactating mothers can access four main services:

  1. Supplementary nutrition - vitamin A tablets, food grains and rice, and fortified food packages are available for children and mothers who are showing signs of malnourishment. Weight-for-age growth cards should be maintained for all children under six years of age - children below the age of 3 should be weighed once a month and children aged 3-6 should be weighed quarterly.
  2. Immunisations – children should be given full vaccinations against six preventable diseases: poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, tuberculosis and measles. Pregnant women should receive a vaccination against tetanus that reduces maternal and neonatal mortality.
  3. Health check-ups - various health services should be provided for children including treatment of diarrhoea, de-worming and distribution of simple medicines (along with weight and height monitoring, and immunisations). Ante-natal and post-natal check-ups should be provided for pregnant women and new mothers.
  4. Referral services – if, after a health check-up, children or mothers are in need of medical attention they should be referred to the Primary Health Centre or sub-centre. Severely malnourished children should be referred to Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) and young children with disabilities should be referred to specialists.

In addition, children aged 3-6 should be able to access pre-school non-formal education under ICDS. Women and adolescent girls (aged 15-45) should also be able to access nutrition and health education, providing them with advice and support to help them look after their own health, nutrition and development needs as well as that of their children and families.

All these services should be available from a local ICDS (or Anganwadi) centre by Anganwadi Workers like Shanti. These community-based women are paid an honorarium for their work.

Whilst the Anganwadi Worker is responsible for the running of the Anganwadi centre, she should be backed up by medical officers, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANM) and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) to provide specialist support (such as immunisations, ante-natal and post-natal care).

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has the overall responsibility of monitoring the ICDS scheme.

 In Premnagar Village in West Bengal, PACS partner CINI has been working with Anganwadi worker Shanti (pictured) to help her to work better with the community and government to improve the ICDS Centre. 

Why is ICDS an issue for socially excluded groups?

It is clear to see from statistics that nutritional access is not universal across India: a staggering 42.5% of Indian children are underweight for their age, but this figure is significantly higher for socially excluded groups: 43.1% of girls, 47.9% of children from Scheduled Castes and 54.5% for children from Scheduled Tribes are malnourished.

The same disparities are seen in immunisations. Whilst only 43.5% of children in India have received a full set of immunisations, the figures for socially excluded groups are even higher: only 39.7% of Scheduled Caste children, 31.3% of Scheduled Tribe children and 36.3% of Muslim children are fully immunised.

Alongside data from 2012/13 that shows that 10% of ICDS centres are not providing supplementary nutrition, these figures show that the services provided under the ICDS scheme are not being accessed by all communities – a reality that PACS work has tried to address.

 This child from Kalyanpur Ward in Bihar receives a vaccination under the ICDS scheme. PACS partner CHARM has been supporting a Muslim Women's Group in the community, helping them to understand the importance of accessing health programmes such as ICDS.

What work has PACS done on ICDS?

PACS has been working on the issue of ICDS to:

  • Increase community awareness about the norms that should be followed at ICDS centres. This has been achieved through working with members of Self Help Groups, like Jhuma.
  • Increase the representation of socially excluded groups (especially women) in health committees, ensuring that they have a voice.
  • Support local health committees (and especially the members from socially excluded groups) to monitor ICDS services and raise issues when discrimination and malpractice occur.
  • Improve family and community nutrition through kitchen gardens and nutritional advice, for example in the tea garden community where Suchitra lives. 

Whilst the overall aim of PACS work on ICDS has been to increase the access of women and children to their rights under this scheme, the programme has especially focused on ensuring that children under the age of two are receiving supplementary nutrition under the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP), that ICDS centres are located in places convenient for socially excluded groups to access, and that ICDS scheme services are provided without discrimination.

Thanks to PACS partner EHA’s support, the women in this Self-Help Group in Jogiwada Village, Madhya Pradesh, have successfully used the MP government’s “Samadhan Online” tool to lodge various complaints. As a result, their village ICDS centre now stocks the correct health and nutrition supplies.

What impact has PACS work on ICDS had?

  • 351,181 children have received their full entitlements to nutrition under ICDS.
  • 5431 Anganwadi (ICDS) Centres have been supported to function more effectively.

Find more ICDS case studies on the PACS Learning Zone.


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