APOPO vzw

APOPO's mission is to develop detection rats technology to provide solutions for global problems and inspire positive social change. APOPO's vision is to solve pressing humanitarian challenges with detection rats technology. Our core values are: Quality - Demonstrating and promoting high standards in research, design, training and implementation of detection rats technology. Social Transformation - Developing skills, creating jobs, improving socio-economic and environmental conditions, releasing land for development, and combating public health issues. Innovation - Pioneering creative research and innovative solutions within a participatory learning culture. Diversity - Embracing diversity...
Mar 1, 2012

HeroRAT Newsletter - February 2012

Dr. Goodall, Bart Weetjens, and SUA
Dr. Goodall, Bart Weetjens, and SUA's Prof. Ngaga

Dr. Jane Goodall pays a visit to APOPO

Internationally renowned primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall recently spent a morning with the APOPO team – human and rat alike – as part of her larger visit to Sokoine University of Agriculture this February.

After being introduced to our work through our founder, Bart Weetjens, Dr. Goodall visited our Tanzanian headquarters for the first time in 2003. This month she was warmly welcomed back to our training facilities, where she spent a morning touring APOPO’s landmine detection training field, viewing the rats in action, and speaking with our HeroRAT trainers and staff.

Following a break at APOPO’s Tuberculosis Detection facility for tea and coffee, Dr. Goodall, along with her team,  representatives from Sokoine University, and members of the University's Roots and Shoots club, commenced the planting of 20 fruit trees to brighten the garden of our TB Detection facility.

“I admire the work APOPO is doing with their HeroRATs, on behalf of the thousands of people whose lives have been saved, and for changing the reputation of the rats for the better,” said Dr. Goodall, after completing her visit of APOPO. The entire APOPO staff was proud to present our training headquarters to Dr. Goodall and her team, and we invite her again to Morogoro anytime!


A life affected by APOPO’s work

Azarias is one of many people affected by landmines in Mozambique. In 1981, he lost his right leg after stepping on a landmine in the Pfukwe Corridor of the Mabalane District. Since then he has lost his brother, uncle and cousin, all to landmines. His livelihood, livestock, was also at risk. 

When asked about the mines, Azarias looked down and said, “When I heard the loud noise of a mine, I felt sad and thought of my past years. I knew it was either the life of a human being, or of a livestock that had been taken away.”

APOPO has since been clearing mines in the Mabalane District, which was one of the largest minefields in Mozambique. APOPO’s Mine Action Program in the Gaza Province has so far positively affected the lives of over 117,500 people.

Azarias smiles, “There is happiness, our land has been returned to us, freedom of grazing for livestock, no restrictions on where we walk. The mines have been a serious problem and we have already seen a reduction in people losing their lives. We are very happy.”

 

Surveying the Thai-Cambodian border

Along the Thai-Cambodian border, the APOPO-PRO survey teams have now detailed more than 50 million square meters of Suspected Hazardous Areas (SHA). As a result, the surveyed land was reclassified as follows:

• 5% Cancelled Land
• 25% Confirmed Hazardous Areas (CHA)
• 70% SHA or Area With Restriction (ARW), pending further technical survey.  

Alongside the four non-technical survey (NTS) teams, APOPO-PRO had two small technical survey (TS) teams, whose role was to verify information being collected. Through this verification process, 476 mines were found along with 876 explosive remnants of war (ERW). These finds confirm that the NTS methodology is correctly identifying areas containing mines.

With such a promising start for the survey program, APOPO hopes to secure further funding to ensure that we continue to play a significant role in helping the Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC) achieve their goal of a mine-free nation. 

Lieutenant GeneraI Chatree Changrian, Director General of TMAC, fully supports APOPO’s efforts: “APOPO has made a substantial contribution, and has become one of the most important partners of TMAC…we believe that APOPO’s efforts can contribute to a much more efficient survey to facilitate the land release process, which will bring Thailand as well as other countries in this region many steps closer to full compliance with the APMBC.” 

 

A Day in the Life of a HeroRAT-in-training

HeroRATs put their best paws forward for the camera in their latest cinematic effort, “A Day in the Life of a HeroRAT-in-training,” specially filmed for GlobalGiving’s 2012 Video Contest. Even though the HeroRATs were not declared winners this time around, the three-minute video remains featured on our GlobalGiving project page, Train HeroRATs for life-saving detection missions.

The video follows a typical morning in the lives of future landmine detection HeroRATs, as they train hard inTanzania to fulfill their dreams of one day saving lives in Mozambique or another mine-affected country.

All GlobalGiving Video Contest entrants were judged by Laura Knudson, Education Program Manager for the Green Living Project, a film production company that documents global stories of sustainability. Although the HeroRATs were not chosen among the final five, the rats are still proud of their effort and invite you to view the video: either right here on GlobalGiving, or here on APOPO’s Youtube Channel.

Stay tuned for more films in the future as the HeroRATs shake, rattle, and roll for the camera!

 

Help us improve our communications by taking our survey!

APOPO’s HeroRAT team is interested in improving our communications with you, our donors and supporters! We would greatly appreciate your feedback in one or both of these brief surveys:

APOPO’s Online Communications Survey
APOPO’s Adopt-a-Rat Program Survey

 

***

Thanks for reading, and until next time,

The HeroRAT team
herorats@apopo.org
facebook.com/heroRAT
twitter.com/heroRATs 

Feb 1, 2012

HeroRAT Newsletter - January 2012

Attendees to APOPO
Attendees to APOPO's TB Workshop

APOPO ranks 24 in Global Top 100 Best NGOs list!

This month, The Global Journal published its inaugural “Top 100 Best NGOs” list, the first international ranking of its kind. An initial group of 2,000 non-governmental organizations was researched, edited, and eventually cut to 400, before the final group of 100 was selected – and APOPO came in at No. 24

The Global Journal is a print and online publication based in Geneva and New York that covers the issues and players shaping global governance today. All organizations considered for the Top 100 were assessed based on five key criteria in relation to their humanitarian efforts: impact, innovation, transparency, sustainability and efficiency.

Recognizing the role we play as influential agents of large-scale change, “The Global Journal has sought to move beyond outdated clichés and narrow conceptions about what an NGO is and does. From humanitarian relief to the environment, public health to education, microfinance to intellectual property, NGOs are increasingly at the forefront of developments shaping the lives of millions of people around the world.”

APOPO is excited to have made the list, among an incredible group of worthy organizations. With this validation, we will continue to strengthen our impact and further our efforts to provide solutions to global humanitarian detection challenges. You can take a look at the full list of Top 100 Best NGOs here

 

Wrapping up 2011 with a Win

For creatures that live and work so close the ground, the HeroRATs definitely finished their year on a high note with the news that we had been declared Second Winner in McKinsey’s Social Innovation Video Contest! Thanks to the tireless voting and promoting of our friends and fans (that means you!), the good news came as an early holiday gift to APOPO’s HeroRATs, when the contest winners were announced on December 13th, 2011.

Our video entry, “Training HeroRATs to sniff out TB,” received 709 votes throughout the ten-day voting period and placed us Second out of 11 Finalists. We were honored to be included with First Winner, “Embrace,” and Third Winner, “The sOccket,” whose videos (along with the Fan Favorite Winner submitted by “Duto:IRIS”) can be watched here.

The top three winners will be included in a print edition of McKinsey’s publication What Matters (out this month!), will be featured in a special TV program co-produced by Link TV and Viewchange.org, and will be honored at a networking reception in New York City. Winners have also already been featured on the Huffington Post’s Impact Blog!

We’d like to send our gRATitude to everyone who voted for our video in the contest. Thanks for your support! 


TB Workshop a Top Success

In December, APOPO held a successful TB workshop at our headquarters in Tanzania. Representatives of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Program (NTLP) were invited to take a behind-the-scenes look at our TB Detection Rats, in order to better understand the processes and importance of our collaborative efforts to increase the rate of new case findings in Tanzania. 

There were 27 in attendance, including Regional TB and Leprosy Coordinators (RTLCs), District TB and Leprosy Coordinators (DTLCs), and lab technicians from collaborating DOTS Centers. Professor Kazwala, from Sokoine University of Agriculture, was also present, along with members of APOPO’s TB Detection team. 

The workshop started with a demonstration of the TB Detection HeroRATs, followed by a video clip explaining how detection rats technology works as a diagnostic tool. The 2011 data was then presented, showing the total number of samples screened by rats during second-line screening, the total number of patients screened, and the additional cases identified by rats, from each of the DOTS centers APOPO partners with. The floor was then opened for discussion. 

A newly developed reporting system was adopted, which is designed to assist the DOTS Centers in calling back patients with new cases identified by the rats. A consensus was reached for all involved to continue working closely to ensure diligent patient follow up. With the new system in place, it is hoped that the NTLP will gather strong evidence that highlights APOPO's contribution to the TB control effort in Tanzania. 


HeroRATs hit the newsstands in Germany

Extra, extra! The HeroRATs found their way onto newsstands in Germany on the first day of the new year, when popular women’s magazine Brigitte published an ode to our heroes in their opening issue of 2012.

Beginning with the encouragement to “Forget everything you know about rats. One day they will save the world,” the article paid homage to the human-and-rat-team of APOPO through its detailed description of our work, and by spreading the word about our furry heroes throughout the country. Its publication resulted in new adoptions and donations from over 130 German supporters, all of whom referenced the article as how they heard about APOPO – now that’s some influential liteRATure!

The HeroRATs thoroughly enjoyed their moment in the journalistic spotlight of writer Claudia Münster (an adopter of HeroRAT, Tyson!) and under the flashing lights of photographer Ulla Lohmann. We would like to send many squeaks of thanks their way – and of course, to the adopters and donors who took an interest in our work after reading the magazine. If you haven’t had a chance to catch the article yet, be sure to download a PDF of it here.


APOPO in attendance at the 11MSP in Cambodia

From November 28 to December 2, the 11th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty convened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The annual meeting – also known as the MSP – not only includes the 159 States Parties, but also representatives from States Not Party, civilians, landmine survivors, and delegations of experts from organizations such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). In attendance were Håvard Bach, APOPO’s Head of Mine Action, and Andrew Sully, Program Manager for APOPO’s Thailand Mine Action Program.

Attendees were greeted with a keynote address by Song Kosal, a Cambodian ICBL Youth Ambassador and landmine survivor. Her address implored attendees to follow the theme of this year’s meeting and “Push For Progress” by accelerating mine clearance, sustaining funding and cooperation, destroying existing stockpiles of landmines, and ensuring the rights of survivors, among many other crucial goals.

Cambodia’s well-known struggle with landmines – deadly reminders of past civil war – causes many to feel that, as Ms. Kosal stated, “the heart of the mine ban movement is in Cambodia.” Bringing the 11MSP to Phnom Penh allowed visitors to take note of the progress that has been made, but also to take stock of the remaining work to be done in a country that lives daily with landmines.

In 2010, APOPO found our way to the region when we launched our Thailand Mine Action program with the help of a grant from the Lien Foundation. The team is currently at work in the Thai province of Trat, surveying land along the Cambodian border. To learn more about our work in the Southeast Asia, visit our Thailand Mine Action page.


KKNH Sponsors “Elvis” the HeroRAT

The mission of German NGO Kriegskindernothilfe (KKNH) is to provide emergency aid for child victims of war, and for many years, the organization has supported Elvis, a young landmine survivor from Sarajevo. KKNH have paid for Elvis’ operations, financed his new prostheses, and supported his social and professional development. 

Now, in a fitting and heartfelt gesture, the team of KKNH has connected with APOPO to fund the full training program of one landmine detection HeroRAT, named – you guessed it – Elvis! In doing so, they endeavor to provide support not only for victims of war, but also for preventative measures which aim to reduce the landmine impact in other affected regions. 

The work of the HeroRATs was first introduced to Kurt Amert of KKNH through a friend and fundraiser, Luise Zempel. Luise, together with her knitting group, had initially raised funds for APOPO in order to support Ziko the HeroRAT as part of our shared adoption program.“This commitment, which we now begin with APOPO, strengthens our work, because with you we now can also act preventively,” says Luise. “And – we think this is an important emergency aid, which is deeply rooted in the name Kriegskindernothilfe.”

APOPO is grateful to Kurt, Luise, Elvis & the KKNH organization for their important advocacy work, raising awareness and support for landmine survivors. We have no doubt the young trainee rat, Elvis, will carry his name with pride as he goes about his daily detection missions, sniffing out mines and preventing the loss of lives and limbs. 

Elvis shared his story and his thoughts on his HeroRAT namesake with APOPO! If you would like to read it in his own words, please click here

***

The HeroRATs thank you for your interest in our work, and wish you a prosperous start to 2012!

Best wishes,

The HeroRAT team

herorats@apopo.org
www.apopo.org
facebook.com/herorat
twitter.com/herorats

Dec 21, 2011

A Year of Heroic Happenings

Asante Sana!
Asante Sana!

Mozambique Mine Action Achievements  

 

This year was filled with milestones for our Mozambique Mine Action Program. Thanks to the intrepid work of the team, which now boasts 44 accredited Mine Detection Rats, a grand total of 748,488 square meters of land was cleared in the Gaza Province of Mozambique. While clearing that land, 787 mines were found and destroyed, along with 220 items of unexploded ordnance and 2,683 small arms and ammunition. 

The payoff of this dedication is great: APOPO plans to finish demining of the Gaza Province, which is the most heavily mined province in Mozambique, by early next year – a full two years ahead of the 2014 deadline!
 
The Mozambique Mine Action Program also saw a changeover in management this year. We bid farewell to three-year Program Manager Andrew Sully as he moved to Southeast Asia to pick up the reins of our Thailand Mine Action Program, and welcomed new Program Manager, Tess Tewelde, who came to APOPO from the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).
 
So what’s next for our resolute team? Once clearance of the Gaza Province is completed in early 2012, the team has been tasked to clear two southern districts of the nearby Manica Province, bringing Mozambique another step closer to being mine-free at last.

APOPO-PRO Progress in Thailand 

Our Thailand Mine Action Program headed into the field for the first time in 2011. Equipped with 25 staff and a partnership with the Thai NGO Peace Road Organization (PRO), the team launched a combined Technical and Non-Technical Survey of all Suspected Hazardous Areas in the province of Trat in June.  

APOPO-PRO’s tactic of Land Release Methodology is proving essential in accelerating the daunting task of demining the Thai-Cambodian border. Since the start of the survey, the team has been able to confirm that 25% of surveyed land can indeed be re-classified as Confirmed Hazardous Areas, while 75% of the land can be classified as either Canceled Land or Area with Restriction. During the course of the surveys, the Thailand Mine Action Program has found and destroyed 393 landmines and 859 items of unexploded ordnance.  

These early results already prove that APOPO-PRO’s aid will be instrumental in bringing an end to Thailand’s deadly landmine problem. In 2012, the team plans to continue their survey in the province of Chantaburi. The longer-term vision is to utilize a team of trained Mine Detection Rats to speed up clearance efforts in the region and further the reach of our program’s impact. 

Significant funding is required to sustain this vital undertaking, and APOPO is appealing to anyone who might be able to support this effort to connect with us directly at apopo@apopo.org to further discuss the possibility of collaboration.

 

TB Detection: Saving Lives, Crossing Borders 
 
Our Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Program, based at our headquarters in Morogoro, Tanzania, served as a second-line screen for more than 10,000 patients who had already been tested for TB via microscopy. Thirty-two trained TB-Detection HeroRATs screened more than 20,000 sputum samples provided by these patients, and detected over 300 new cases of Tuberculosis that had been previously missed in hospitals.  
 
While the detection rats were sniffing and saving lives, their human colleagues were hard at work increasing the capacity and recognition of the program. Our 2010 results were published this year in the Pan-African Medical Journal, and our TB Detection Center started working with the newly developed automated line cage to enhance the HeroRAT training process 
 
New hospital partnerships were also established, with APOPO’s technicians now gathering patient samples from a total of 11 DOTS Centers. In addition, as part of our ongoing research and development, studies are being conducted to directly compare the rats’ evaluations of samples with the results of fluorescent microscopy (FMs) and the state-of-the-art Cepheid GeneXpert.
 
The hard work and remarkable results produced by our TB Detection Program in Tanzania has resulted in a huge victory for HeroRATs as a diagnostic method. In October, the Flemish government approved a grant of 590,000 Euros for APOPO to replicate our TB detection successes in Mozambique, another high-burden TB country. The first phase of the project is already underway, and APOPO will spend early 2012 establishing an operational TB capacity in Maputo, Mozambique.

 

APOPO HQ: Training, Research & Development 
 
This year, our HeroRAT Headquarters in Morogoro, Tanzania, continued transforming ordinary African giant pouched rats into extraordinary mine-detecting and TB-sniffing heroes. As of the end of 2011, we currently have 223 rats in various stages of landmine detection training and accreditation. In June, 20 graduRATs of our HeroRAT training course flew to the minefields of Mozambique to fulfill their destinies as life-saving Mine Detection Rats. 
 
Staff and rats in our Remote Scent Tracing Program have been lending their minds, noses, and energy to detecting and discriminating new scents, such as salmonella bacteria, illegal tobacco, and bedbugs. In addition, preliminary research into the CameRAT application was conducted. This project currently involves training six young rats to search for humans and to respond to a command to return to the site where they were released. Some of these initial research programs may result in operational applications in future, provided the necessary support is secured. 
 
Meanwhile, nestled in their comfortable burrows deep inside our breeding kennels, still other HeroRATs have been hard at work with the rewarding (but tiring!) task of contributing to the next generation of heroes. Between October and December alone, the HeroRAT nursery welcomed 36 new baby rats, eager and willing to learn the ropes in one of our life-saving detection programs.

 

HeroRAT Campaign Highlights
 
In addition to the incredible progress of our teams, word of the HeroRATs’ amazing deeds spread all over the world again this year. This exciting exposure helped draw in fans of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities, to join us in the fight against landmines and TB!
 
Highlights included:

 

Help us make “Peace on Earth” a reality! 
 
If you’re looking for a more meaningful Christmas gift than the usual knick-knacks and electronics, you’re in luck – a HeroRAT gift adoption helps make the world a better place, while being a hassle-free and instantly delivered gift, to relieve the pressures of last-minute holiday shopping!
 
 
Our featured TB and Landmine Detection HeroRATs are not only super-skilled and extra lovable, they’re also articulate: adopters receive updates from their rat after the giving season is over, keeping them informed about their heroic work. By teaming up with Nala, Mojo, Cheeky or Blossom this season, you and your gift recipient are truly helping to make the dream of “Peace on Earth” a reality. To get the whole banana on the perks of adopting a rat for yourself or for others, check out our Adopt-a-Rat webpage and download our Adopt-a-Rat FAQ! 
 
There are a number of other inspiring initiatives for givers looking to lend a paw this holiday season, too. One way is to visit our project on GlobalGiving, which allows you to contribute a year's worth of banana treats for one of our rats - that's cause for a full-cheeks celebration! And if you'd like to support our work as a heroic holiday gift, check out the GlobalGiving Gift Card Challenge. For every 500 gift cards sold, something amazing will happen thanks to GlobalGiving's bonus grants - now that's the giving spirit!

***

HeroRATs are naturally humble creatures, and this year, we’re more humbled than ever by the generosity of our friends around the world. APOPO's teams could not have come this far without the help you’ve given, and continue to give, throughout the holiday season. Thank you, and happy holidays!

With gRATitude & good wishes,

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