For anganwadi workers, a typical morning often means going around houses in a village to remind children to attend their child care centres. There, the workers conduct a range of development activities for their charges and, most of all, serve them a hot cooked meal. Over the past few months however, anganwadi workers have had a different routine – as frontline delivery agents of Covid-19 services, conducting door-to-door visits, awareness checks and delivering essentials. While these are important emergency services, the lack of child services has created an enormous problem.

Over 120 million children in India are served by the midday meal scheme, just over half of whom get it in anganwadi centres. The others get it in school. These meals are crucial both for child nutrition and cognitive development.

According to the United Nation’s Policy brief on the Impact of Covid-19 on Children, 368.5 million children in 143 countries who usually rely on meal programmes for reliable daily nutrition will face malnutrition. A recent paper in Lancet notes that school meals are important in child nutrition and crisis responses. However, most countries have focused on short-term business relief and social protection, not long-term recovery for healthier and more equal societies, it says.

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