After traveling about 65 km from Gwalior city into its interior villages, I found myself in a completely different place. Compared to the hustle bustle of the city, these villages have no roads, electricity, big buildings, malls, or schools. The particular place I had traveled to—Ghatigaon block—is completely void of well-developed infrastructure.
Madhya Pradesh has the biggest tribal population in India, and a huge percentage of this population lives in interior Gwalior. I was astonished to see that Ghatigaon village is in such relatively close geographical proximity to the big city of Madhya Pradesh, yet exists in such drastically different conditions. For the residents there, food, shelter, and medical assistance are oftentimes luxuries.
The main bread-earning occupation is stone breaking, which is hardly sufficient to supply their daily needs. For this reason, when TB or any other disease afflicts them, they have no other option but to fight the disease without medications and treatment.
Operation ASHA brings real hope to them. The work that Operation ASHA and its providers are doing in Gwalior’s tribal regions is miraculous.
The places where Operation ASHA has started working are not big villages, but just small hamlets with 4-5 houses per hamlet. The average distance from one house to another is 3-4 km. Stationary centers cannot be built, so our providers need to travel from house to house to visit patients. There are no cemented roads, so they ride bikes on barren land filled with dust. No matter if it is during the scorching summers, heavy rainfalls, or bone-chilling winters, the providers start their day in the field on their bikes at 6 in the morning. I can attest to this because I have seen it with my own eyes.
Before Operation ASHA started working in this area, patients were given medicine boxes as a one-time event and never had any follow-up tests. No one cared about how they were taking their medicines. Now, Operation ASHA ensures that they are properly receiving medicine and care.
Unfortunately, poverty is a vicious cycle and all issues are interrelated. Treating TB alone is not enough; proper food, education, work, and housing are also needed. This can only happen with the coordinated efforts of government, other civil societies, and of course, people like you and me.
Operation ASHA started work in Gwalior in the month of May, and since then, our providers have successfully treated three patients. Our providers, who are essentially working as foot soldiers, are giving patients hope, health, and happiness.
An Arab proverb states, “If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart.” So get out there and do your bit! Your support can go a long way in improving the lives of many.
– Written by Shubhika Dwivedi