TIRUCHY: The all-women force of 3,200 who work for the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDSS) in Tiruchy district is the foundation stone for the strong overall community health structure combatting coronavirus. The all-women army of the ICDSS does not gain as much attention or appreciation as do police and health employees. As the miasma of despair engulfs the whole State due to the fallout of coronavirus, these 3,200 women ensure all children and new mothers stay healthy and get proper nutrition.
They also keep track of pregnant women in every nook and cranny of the district. When Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced the closure of schools and Anganwadis across the State, he also arranged for doorstep delivery of rations each child in their respective households. With most people staying at home in the lockdown, the women attached to ICDSS venture out of their houses to deliver rations to households in every village and city. Tiruchy district has 1,850 Anganwadi centres. There are 96,357 children aged between six to 60 months in the district who receive weaning food. This figure includes 42,000 children who receive rations like rice, dal and eggs.
Apart from this, ICDSS women have to provide nutritious food to 12,750 antenatal and 13,519 lactating mothers. Tamilselvi, who works at the Anganwadi centre in Kannipatti village, travelled 13 km from Manapparai town to deliver rations. “As I was afraid to go alone due to the lockdown, I took my husband along with me on a two-wheeler to go to the village to do my duty. Once, a policeman stopped us midway. When I showed my ID card, he let us go,” she said. Some policemen easily identify them through their uniform sarees and allow them to proceed.
Tamilselvi was to take care of 64 children and also provide antenatal and postnatal care to nearly 20 mothers in the village. She has to do daily follow-ups of health conditions of expecting mothers - who are eight or nine months pregnant. As far as the nutritious diet for children below the age of five is concerned, ICDSS women provide each child’s household with rice, dal, eggs and weaning food. These are otherwise difficult for them to avail for those living in poverty. On April 1, they provided enough rations to last 15 days to children’s households.
Another example of the work being done by these women is Chitra of Kallagam, who travelled to Anna Nagar in Pullambadi on her two-wheeler to provide food and assistance to 20 children and 21 expecting and new mothers who come under the particular Anganwadi’s jurisdiction. All these workers have been asked to take pictures along with every child and mother while delivering rations and weaning food and send them to their higher-ups in order to ensure works are being carried out properly.
Services as tasks
T Bhuvaneshwari, ICDSS project officer, Tiruchy district, said “Our staffers are tasked to follow up on the health conditions of all expecting mothers and newborns. They have to call them every day. If any woman develops labour pain, it is the duty of the Anganwadi worker there to arrange for an ambulance and take her to hospital. Similarly, she has to ensure her safe return from the hospital.
Also, ICDSS workers are accompanying or following up with expecting mothers who undergo regular check-ups. All these works are being done despite the lockdown.” Moreover, in this challenging time, ICDSS women are assisting Health department staff with quarantines, community surveys and also in area containment as they have developed a rapport with local villagers and residents. Their prescience makes it easier for Health department workers to complete the task at hand.