Operation ASHA: a tuberculosis-free world

So you may ask yourself, what does TB and Chicago´s philanthropy world have in common and how are they related? It is a good question to ask yourself since tuberculosis is a disease that has already been cured in the United States and in most 1st world countries. So, why does Chicago help out on this mission? Here, Yosef Meystel is answering this question.

The offices in Chicago Illinois are located at this address: P.O. Box A3883, Chicago, IL 60690-3883.  This office has the big job of recruiting people who want to help out with a problem that is not affecting them directly but it is affecting many other people around the world, especially in 3rd world countries such as India and Cambodia.


Image courtesy of DIVatUSAID at Flickr.com

But what exactly is TB and how does it affect a community in 3rd world countries, specially very poor third world countries? Let’s take a look.

DS-TB or Drug-Sensitive TB is a respiratory bacteria that in the initial stages is easy to cure within 8 to 10 months. When it is still in the first stages it is easy to cure and to treat, can be treated by community health workers and has minimal side effects. In order to diagnose TB properly, a  smear microscopy procedure is administered which is a technique that is very cheap and widely available but a lot of people don’t know about it and are ignorant on the matter. The thing is that if TB is not addressed in the first stages it will become a  Drug-Resistant TB, which is a whole different game that is expensive and very difficult to treat.  

In India for example, TB is becoming a serious social and economic problem with many labor workers suffering from this disease and being absent from work for long periods of time. The numbers are scary with almost  100,000 female patients who are left aside due to their condition and with 300,000 children in labor due to their parents suffering TB and because they have to take care of their parents and family. It is a vicious cycle where youngsters are starting to suffer from TB at early stages due to their hard work and not eating very well, just like their parents but in their teens or early 20s. all this information makes  TB  one of the biggest health problems in India.

So what is it that they do and how is Chicago related to this? Well, their mission is to give access to health services and high quality, affordable medication to communities that are in poverty conditions and simply do not have the means to go their treatments centers or hospitals. If people could go to hospitals and centers to get their medication, this problem wouldn’t exist, but, operation ASHA gives the last step of the process by taking the services to their doorsteps.  So, in summary, we can say that Operation ASHA works with 3rd world countries and in the poorest places in India and Cambodia.

In Chicago Illinois, the center is dedicated to acquiring drugs and volunteers to go out and help people in those aforementioned 3rd world countries. This makes ASHA Chicago one of the few charity institutions addressing this issue in India. People may think that it is a long shot and that India is very far, but the problem can come back stronger than ever to 1st world countries where TB was eradicated many years ago. So, the Chicago chapter makes the ASHA project a worldwide issue by including one of the most important countries in the world to eradicate this disease and prevent it from coming back to countries where the illness had be cured.


Image courtesy of VCU Tompkins-McCaw Library Special Collections at Flickr.com

The story comes from the back of Rd. Shelly Batra and Sandeep Ahuja who founded Operation ASHA in 2006. Their first goal was to cure TB and then open a line to deliver medication and health services to the most underprivileged. Shortly after, the USA chapter was open in Chicago, making that center one of the most important places to receive donations and volunteers.

Since India was declared by the UN as the top priority for TB in the world, they are tackling India first. Then came Cambodia. The thing is that the UN also declared this disease as a global emergency in 2003  and in India the numbers have gone up to the point where the problem is now an epidemic issue.

As for today,  OpASHA covers 4,000 slums in nine Indian states and two provinces in Cambodia by giving them education and receiving donations and volunteers from the USA, specially from their chapter in Chicago who are extremely involved in the issue of preventing the problem from spreading worldwide.

Be sure to also read this post about Keshet: an institution that provides love and care to people with disabilities.