Chhattisgarh becomes first state to open Anganwadi Centres amidst COVID-19

In a bold step, Chhattisgarh government has decided to re-open 55,000 anganwadi centres in the state for a limited time in a day, from 7 Sept, to provide hot cooked meal to children of 3-6 years and pregnant women. The anganwadi centres will also provide services of immunization of children and health-check of pregnant women, under the Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND).

Chhattisgarh is the first state in the country to re-open the anganwadi centres to provide these critical nutrition and health services to children and women.

According to the National Family Health Survey-4, about 38% of children below 5 years are malnourished, and 42% children are anaemic in the state. About 47% of women and 46% of adolescent girls are anaemic. Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Chhattisgarh is 41 per 1000 live births.

Global evidence shows that malnutrition among children will increase by 14% and the number of death of children below 5 years could increase by 20-25% every year, due to the adverse impact of COVID. COVID could wipe-off the gains achieved by the state on well-being of children and women, if anganwadi centres remain closed.

The anganwadi centres are closed for more than 5 months since 14 March 2020. The bold decision of the state government to re-open the anganwadi centres, is apparently to address the challenges of child health and nutrition in the state.

As per the guidelines issued by the Department of Women and Child Development on 2 September, all precautions would be taken including physical distancing, wearing of mask, washing hands with soap and sanitisation of children and women. Before opening, all centres will be sanitised during 3-6 Sept. Handwashing and screening would be made compulsory before allowing the beneficiaries inside the centre. Social distancing norms would be strictly adhered to and a maximum of 15 beneficiaries will be allowed to enter at a time. The department has also issued directions to ensure the food is cooked safely, served in clean utensils and the place is well sanitised.

In case of any confirmed COVID19 cases, the centre will be closed for 3 days for sanitisation and during this period hot meal and VHND services would not be available. Besides, anganwadi centres in containment zones or areas closed by the district administration, would not be opened.

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