Mozambique is on track to be free of landmines by the end of this year. Abu is one of APOPO’s deminers who’s been working hard towards this achievement. Every day he makes sure his family and community can live, work and play in their fields without fear.
“Everyone in the community knows about the mines that put our lives in danger. I decided to do something about it so I joined APOPO”, says Abu.
“I carry out tasks such as minefield preparation and landmine detection. Once our HeroRATs have found the mines, I carefully expose them and my colleagues then safely destroy them. The rats are truly amazing. They are so fast! They can search 200 square meters an hour. This could take me eight days.
People say I risk my life to find the landmines. But we follow strict safety rules and we take regular breaks from the heat and intense concentration. There are also fully trained medical staff on hand with top quality equipment.
My job supports my family and I help to pay school fees for my nieces and nephews. I also started up my wife in our business as one day all the mines will be gone. And my children can now play and collect firewood without fear of landmines. Thanks to apopo, my family is now safe”.
The Maputo 3rd Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty concluded in late June in positive fashion with the seventy-nine participating state parties making strong declarations of renewed commitment to the Treaty.
The convention was convened to discuss the progress made toward realizing Treaty commitments in countries suffering from landmine and ERW contamination. Specifically, individual deadline requirements and extension requests were considered as states parties work to clear their territories of landmines and destroy stockpiles in accordance with set deadlines.
Although much progress has been made there is much left to do in spite of commitments shown. The review conference offered a high-level space for inclusion of landmine survivors and considered the plight of landmine victims, who long after landmine clearance has taken place still find themselves unable to work or without proper support. Apopo’s honorary president HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium addressing the conference said "...victims should be integrated into global and national policy related to disability, health, education,employment, development and poverty reduction."
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) also issued a completion challenge to all states parties, asking them to commit to complete all major Treaty obligations within the next decade. "The Maputo Action Plan adopted today provides a roadmap for what needs to happen during the next five years to achieve a world without landmines," said ICBL-CMC Executive Director, Sylvie Brigot-Vilain.
The ICBL reacted with guarded optimism to the United States' long awaited announcement that it intends to take steps to join the Treaty. Although the ICBL pointed out that no target date has been set by the US, they acknowledged that the announcement shows that the US has changed its stance on the Treaty for the better.
Apopo was well represented at the Conference, including at the welcome reception on Sunday evening where eight apopo deminers were in attendance. Apopo was honored by the invitation from the Director of Mozambique’s National Institute for Demining (IND), Mr. Alberto Augusto, because deminers are the backbone of apopo operations and must not become forgotten heroes.
Apopo has much to show for its efforts in Mozambique and beyond since 2007, having released over 11 million square meters of land back to local populations with over 900,000 people having been freed from the threat of landmines.
Country Director for apopo Mozambique Mine Action program Tess Tewelde said "the occasion of the Convention was a welcomed opportunity for Mozambique to present its remarkable progress in mitigating its landmine problem. For its part apopo was proud to showcase our work in strong partnership with the IND, national and international stakeholders. Apopo sincerely thanks its donors and partners who make this life-saving work possible."
The HeroRATs have found over 5,500 TB-positive patients originally misdiagnosed by local hospitals in Tanzania and Mozambique. Here is one of one their stories, William M.
"I am William. I contracted TB but it was not diagnosed until tested by Apopo HeroRATs. I work hard at a dairy to pay for my kids' school fees. I have an elderly father and 8 children to look after. If I am sick, I can't work. After 3 visits to the clinic without diagnosis, I became sick, thin and very worried. My workmates became worried of co-infection because we work so closely together. Many of my friends have died from TB, it's devastating."
"Then the clinic called to say that I had been tested TB positive by rats. Rats! We can hardly believe it. If the HeroRATs had not diagnosed my TB, I think I would be dead by now."
William's wife Esther says "I am very relieved that the Apopo rats found William's TB. Now he is on the mend."
From William and everyone at APOPO, thank you to all the GlobalGiving supporters we have made thousands of stories like this come true!
APOPO is about to complete training and testing of 10 mine detection rats (MDR) in our training and research facility in Tanzania in preparation to deploy to Cambodia and begin operations.
This is the first time that our MDR have been deployed on survey and clearance operations outside of Africa. APOPO plans to recruit and train Cambodian handlers to team up with the 10 MDR by mid-year so that MDR survey and clearance operations may then commence.
Meanwhile APOPO Program Manager for Thailand and Cambodia Kim Warren is overseeing the operations of our other non-MDR mine clearance assets such as human de-miners with metal detectors, demining machinery/vehicles and support staff. Kim says: “We are looking forward to bringing the mine detection rats to Cambodia. They are trained to sniff out explosive vapor and have the advantage of being able to work quickly and cost effectively. It is going to be interesting to see them working on Cambodia soil.”
Late last year, APOPO signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Royal Government of Cambodia, to advance the shared goal of freeing Cambodia from the threat of landmines, under the authority of the CMAA. Cambodia is afflicted with mines and explosive remnants of war left behind by 30 years of conflict that ended in the 1990’s. A recent survey revealed that 1,915 Km² throughout the country is still suspected of mine contamination. While the number of landmine related casualties has been drastically reduced from 4,320 in 1996 to 186 in 2012, landmine contamination continues to hinder national reconstruction and development.
Cambodia’s landmine and ERW problem is huge and too complex for the country to burden alone. International support and assistance will be required for many years to come until the country is able to cope with the problem.
Dear APOPO Supporters,
As a donor to APOPO and GlobalGiving, we want to thank you for your support and wish you a very Happy New Year and all the best wishes in 2014!
A quick program update on APOPO’s performance: the HeroRATs and their human colleagues continue to work hard everyday, clearing over 8 million square meters of land in Mozambique, destroying over 2,700 landmines, and detecting over 4,700 TB patients misdiagnosed by local hospitals in Tanzania and Mozambique.
We are going to Cambodia! In late November, APOPO signed an agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia to clear landmines in Cambodia, and the HeroRATs are going to be part of this!
APOPO and the HeroRATs are proud to have recently launched myapopo.org! Under the direct supervision of the HeroRATs, the APOPO humans have been working hard to improve the donor experience to be a lot more fun! At myapopo.org, donors can adopt a baby HeroRAT that they can name themselves. Then guide its growth, development, and choose whether it detects landmines or tuberculosis patients. The many benefits of adopting include: an adoption certificate, frequent updates on your personalized myapopo wall, fun and interesting stories, nice pictures, fun avatars and badges, social media sharing, and seeing your HeroRAT's impact after graduation.
As a current or former donor through GlobalGiving, you are entitled to the benefits on www.myapopo.org. If you wish be part of the fun experience, send an email to email@example.com.
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Tanzania, United Republic of