Evaluation Report on Integrated Child Development Services

The Government of India launched the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in 1975 in recognition of the importance of early childhood care as the foundation of human development. The ICDS has expanded over the years and is now one of the world’s largest and unique outreach programmes responding to the challenges of meeting the holistic needs of a child. Over the years the programme has undergone many transformations in terms of scope, content and implementation, but the primary goal of breaking the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition, reducing morbidity and mortality caused by nutritional deficiencies, reaching out to children, pregnant women lactating mothers and adolescent girls have remained unaltered.
The Planning Commission felt the need for evaluating the ICDS to know the ground reality about the programme design, implementation process, outcome and impact of the programme and wanted to assess the relevance of this programme in achieving its aims and objectives. An evaluation study was commissioned by the Programme Evaluation Organisation (PEO) of Planning Commission. This study has covered 19,500 households spread across 100 districts in 35 states and UTs.

Some of the key findings that emerged from the evaluation study are: (i) wide divergence between official statistics on nutritional status, registered beneficiaries and number (norms) of days food/supplementary nutrition (SN) served, and grassroots reality with regard to these indicators; (ii) around half of the total eligible children are currently enrolled at anganwadi centres and the effective coverage as per norms is only 41% of those registered for the ICDS benefits; (iii) anganwadi workers are overburdened, underpaid and mostly unskilled, which affects the implementation of the scheme; (iv) a majority of anganwadi centres have inadequate infrastructure to deliver the six designated services under the ICDS and this has affected the quality of service delivery adversely; (v) performance of the programme has been mixed in the selected sample states; and (vi) impact of the ICDS scheme on the intended beneficiaries is largely dependent on the quality of service delivery. The study has also come up with various suggestions. Some of these are: (i) per capita norms of financial allocation for the supplementary nutrition programme need revision every year and must be in keeping with the rising food prices; (ii) vertical implementation of programmes cannot help realise the potential benefits unless the issue of convergence of interrelated services is meaningfully addressed; and (iii) existing mechanism of “flow of funds”and its use for providing supplementary nutrition should be restructured.

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