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SHIS Tuberculosis Center

  • Sponsoring the TB and general dispensary centers of SHIS, including the sub-centers in Sarberia, Basanti, and Gosaba

  • SHIS has a permanent staff of 400 all Indian highly trained social and medical workers.

  • Supported by Dominique Lapierre's donations since 1986

City of Joy Aid supports the Southern Health Improvement Samity (SHIS), a voluntary non-governmental and secular social welfare organization working to eradicate tuberculosis in very poor rural districts of Bengal. SHIS, which was founded in 1978 by a local social worker, Mohammed Abdul Wohab, to help poor bidi-makers (bidis are the inexpensive locally produced cigarettes of India) suffering from tuberculosis, gives general medical treatment and offers education and development plans to some 1.7 million people in the region.

Author and philanthropist Dominique Lapierre being honored by former TB patients treated and cured at the SHIS medical center in Banghur, which is supported by the royalties of the books The City of Joy and A Thousand Suns.

Since Indian independence, the Sunderbans area of West Bengal has remained underdeveloped, with socio-economic conditions below the poverty line; its inhabitants have generally been underprivileged.


Read more about SHIS:
Wohab and Sabitri

The Honey Tigers


No modern medical facilities were ever available to the population. The only medical treatments offered were from traditional healers, quack doctors, snake charmers, exorcists, and fakirs. Furthermore, for a long time this area suffered from a lack of access to Calcutta, and most patients died before reaching the city hospitals.

When a cyclone demolished the area in 1978, a few local social workers decided to unite their efforts to bring relief to the victims of the disaster. This led to the creation of SHIS. Its first action was to undertake a survey of the area, the results of which showed that nearly fifty percent of the population suffered from some sort of serious disease, and especially from tuberculosis. To investigate the origins of this situation, the SHIS founders decided to spend time with the villagers, sharing their food and their daily lives.

For two decades, Dominique Lapierre, and his wife, also named Dominique, have helped poor residents of the Ganges delta.

They discovered that the villagers saw tuberculosis as a kind of a curse. The risk of death from it was known to be high, and the infectious nature of the disease was understood, at least to some extent. But there appeared to be little opportunity for effective treatment and cure. Medicines were available to only a few people, and essential diagnostic techniques such as sputum examination and chest X-ray were extremely scarce. Admission to the hospitals in Calcutta was nearly impossible.

The result of these conditions was that when someone was known to have tuberculosis, a kind of social boycott occurred. Patients were ostracized within their own families; when tuberculosis struck it always led to misery and, eventually, death.

Given these findings, SHIS number one objective became the eradication of tuberculosis from the area of the Sunderbans.

Positive Action for Decisive Results

Thanks to its main center of Bhangar and its 3 satellite clinics, SHIS has totally eradicated TB in 307 villages and cured 98% of all patients treated. The area covered by SHIS action is about 1,000 villages with 1,6 million population.

Treatment is offered through most modern techniques:

  • early detection and awareness of symptoms in the clinics and in the villages thanks to an ambulance offered by the TATA trust and equipped by Dominique Lapierre with a portable X-ray machine
  • extensive preventive program of B.C.G. immunisation
  • diagnostic of all cases through X-ray facilities provided by Dominique Lapierre and 3 pathology laboratories
  • treatment through 4 qualified regular physicians and a highly trained staff of medics
  • regular meetings of all the patients for teaching and asserting the progress/problem/failure
  • formation of 1,000 patients-leaders responsible for patients in their 1,000 villages
  • post-cure follow up
  • distribution to underprivileged TB patients of special rations of food, rehabilitation of their houses, digging of tube wells and latrines

Non-TB Actions

In addition to the specific effort against tuberculosis, SHIS activities include:

  • the cure of more than 50,000 patients suffering from all kinds of diseases each year
  • an eye clinic - several hundred cases of cataracts have been operated as a beginning to a very important campaign against this infirmity
  • a mother & child health care program
  • monitoring the growth of 900 children through individual charts and proper care
  • immunisation (TB, diphteria, whooping cough, tetatus, measle, polio) of 6,000 children each year
  • protection against tetanus of 5,750 pregnant mothers
  • a Family Planning program for 2,000 couples each year
  • seminars to teach mothers pre/post natal care, and how to make O.R.S. (oral rehydratation solution)
  • health awareness programs in the villages through daily surveys
  • health seminars in villages and developping camps
  • cholera/gastro-enteritis camps at time of epidemics
  • creation of "Mother leaders" in each village to be responsible of their community's health hazards
  • rural development schemes - SHIS has provided several hundred driking water tube-wells, 615 public latrines rehabilitated hundreds of huts, launched reforestation programs, held seminars with local farmers for an improved agriculture and the development of pisciculture and poultry activities.
  • various schemes to help tribal comunities to run 15 schools
  • an Income Generation program to enable underprivileged women to start small business, to train them in raising ducks or hens, to make embroidery, etc.
  • schoolbooks given to children

For most services received (X-rays, vaccinations, etc.) patients are paying a small contribution. Services are, of course, automatically free to the poorest.

SHIS Programs in Progress

  • Hospital boats to reach the isolated inhabitants of the 54 islands of the Sunderbans deprived of all medical assistance.
  • Creation of a new TB clinic in Haroah, North 24-Parganas.
  • Increase in the tube wells and latrines programs in the area covered.
  • Creation of a multi-tests pathology center at Bhangar. - A sponsorship program for education of girl students.