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Aug 20, 2013

APOPO's work in Mozambique

The HeroRATs save thousands of lives
The HeroRATs save thousands of lives

The first APOPO TB research laboratory was established in Morogoro, Tanzania in 2005. Since 2008, the HeroRATs have delivered promising results, with a reported increase of 43% in the tuberculosis detection rates in the samples evaluated. There are now a total of 17 collaborating clinics in Dar es Salaam, 178,425 sputum samples screened since 2007, and 3,788 TB positives identified by rats after being missed by microscopy.

With the aim of replicating the results obtained in Tanzania, APOPO opened its operations in the Republic of Mozambique earlier this year, thus contributing to the Ministry of Health efforts to control tuberculosis in the country. To conduct the research, a laboratory was built at Eduardo Mondlane University’s Veterinary School grounds and opened on June 28th, 2013. APOPO rats will evaluate the samples coming from patients with suspected tuberculosis, and any positives will be confirmed using fluorescence microscopy techniques. So far, there are 8 participating units in Maputo, and a total of 7,210 sputum samples screened since January. 

In regards to APOPO mine action, last week 26 Mine Detection Rats (MDR’s) were deployed to Mozambique. These rats will go through a period of acclimatization and training in order to pass an official external accreditation test according to International Mine Action Standards (IMAS). Once accredited, the rats and their trainers will be officially licensed for operational work and can begin to work with their HeroRAT colleagues in the minefields. So far, a total of 2,406 landmines have been found and neutralized. A total of 6,423,361m2 of land has been returned to the population, safe to be used for agriculture and grazing.

A HeroRAT plays after training
A HeroRAT plays after training

Links:

May 20, 2013

Surviving the landmines: APOPO's work in Thailand

APOPO-PRO
APOPO-PRO

Thailand offers its hospitality to millions of tourists every year and has become one of the biggest and most attractive tourist destinations in the world, charming its visitors with a rich array of history, culture, architecture and food. Yet few are aware of a considerable mine problem along the borders, especially with Cambodia, and that people living in these areas suffer from landmine accidents, fear of accidents and limited access to arable land.

What is it like to survive dangerous landmines? Watch this video, which features interviews with survivers, on APOPO's work in Thailand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yApYLbESJl0

APOPO has built upon the excellent start in Thailand in 2011 where it implemented a Non-Technical Survey (NTS) program along the Thailand-Cambodia border. APOPO has partnered with a local Thai NGO, Peace Roads Organisation (PRO) and has been working closely with the Thailand Mine Action Centre (TMAC) to systematically survey all minefields along the border in Trat & Buriram Provinces.

NTS gathers detailed information about mined areas including the number of mines, location and size. The consequence of this NTS process is that considerable time, effort and money will now not be wasted clearing land unnecessarily. This then increases the efficiency and effectiveness for the mine action programs and will assist Thailand meet its mine ban treaty obligations.

Links:

Apr 4, 2013

International Mine Awareness Day: Zero New Landmine Victims

I once met a four-year-old boy while visiting a physical rehabilitation centre in Colombia. He sat on a small chair in front of a small table. A woman, probably his mother, accompanied him. A physiotherapist sat on the other side of the table. She was holding some cards in front of him, and it looked like they were playing a game. I could not be further off. The boy tried to manoeuvre his hand to grip the cards, but his hand had been replaced with a prosthesis.

He seemed so small and earnest in his struggles and I could not help but cursing whatever had caused the loss of this boy’s hand. There was a conflict, but that little boy should never have been the target. The landmine that “took” him could not discriminate between soldiers and children and would strike anyone who would come across it. Just like a soldier that never sleeps and keeps on fighting til the bitter end, decades after the real war has ended. The silent soldier kills, maims and injures its targets indiscriminately – 70 to 85% of landmine casualties are civilians.

Most countries that suffer from mines are war torn, with poor or non-existing health care services. Many landmine victims will never receive the care and treatment that they need and should receive. The four-year-old boy has only begun his lifelong struggle. He is one of several hundreds of children and adults that fall victims of landmines each year. As the boy grows, he will require a new prosthesis every six months. He is probably luckier than most other mine victims, but this is poor consolation. For his and other victims’ sake, we cannot afford to slow down our efforts to rid the world of mines.

Finding and clearing mines is time-consuming, slow and dangerous. The problem is too big and has taken too long to get rid of, meaning that funds are drying out due to donor fatigue. For people who live among landmines, life will only be truly good when the last landmine has left the ground. Creating cost-effective, high-impact mine removal programs is therefore necessary to eliminate the mines left in former and active conflict regions around the world, such as Mozambique, Cambodia and Angola.

Clearance operations, however, are known to be slow and costly. In the past, it was found that clearance had been conducted in areas that contained no mines, because they can be hard to locate. In order to clear mines from the right areas, systematic collection of information prior to clearance is essential. This process is now often referred to as non-technical survey, which combines a desk assessment with field observations and informant interviews. The survey gathers and analyses past records, land use and visible signs of mines. The aim is to use survey tools, both non-technical and technical assets, such as manual deminers or mine detections rats (MDRs), to reduce the need for full clearance, which is more expensive and time consuming.

Low-cost mine identification and removal tools are also needed to maximize available resources. APOPO, for example, works with rats to aid this process.  Rats are a very efficient tool for releasing large mine suspected areas and can help free areas from the threat of landmines efficiently and at very low costs. Our ultimate goal is to reach the zero new landmine victims goal in the countries where we work. It’s a hairy goal but we cannot aim for any less.

Read the original article on The Humanitas Global Development Blog.

Feb 21, 2013

TB Detection Rats begin operations in Mozambique

TB Detection rat in action
TB Detection rat in action

Tuberculosis detection operations by trained sniffer rats began in Maputo, Mozambique in early 2013.  For the first phase of operations, eight HeroRATs will analyze over 560 samples of human sputum per week.  

The Mozambican staff and equipment are ready for the exciting start of APOPO’s new arm of TB operations.  Local staff from the country’s capital city of Maputo, have started working with the animals. The staff were trained at APOPO’s TB headquarters and research facility in Morogoro, Tanzania, by a team of senior lab technicians and animal handlers, before they were sent to work in the Maputo facility.

APOPO has partnered with eight local health centers in Mozambique which will provide the samples. The rats will then serve as second line screening for the centers, which check for TB under a microscope.  This is APOPO’s second location for TB operations and marks the first international expansion of the TB Program.   
 
Mozambique has a very high burden TB and co-infection, where a patient has both TB and HIV. It is often difficult to diagnose TB in HIV patients, and TB is a leading cause of death for people infected with HIV.  APOPO Mozambique TB Program Manager Emilio Valverde, “Mozambique withstands a terribly high burden of TB. This is particularly serious in HIV patients, accounting for a 16% of the Mozambican population. My personal hope is that APOPO rats can contribute to alleviate this burden in a short term."
Jan 17, 2013

Gaza province declared Mine-free!

APOPO the sole demining operator for the Gaza province has handed over a mine-free community to the government of Mozambique and Instituto Nacional de Desminagem (IND), the country’s national demining institute. This feat was accomplished a year before the deadline given to the social enterprise that researches, develops and implements detection rats technology for humanitarian purposes. (link to video on MDRs in Gaza)

For a country affected by remnants of a war that lasted 30 years, it had initially seemed like an uphill task to render Mozambique completely mine-free by 2014 according to the Mine Ban Treaty deadline. Now the clearance of the Gaza region has demonstrated that strong and collaborative efforts can indeed beget transformative and impactful results.

APOPO's strategic Gaza mine action program which started in 2008 has cleared over 6 million square meters of land in the province with a budget of just 5.5 million Euro. In its clearance efforts, the APOPO mine action team has found 2,393 landmines, 12,838 small arms and ammunition  and 922 UXO. 

Demining efforts in the last decade focused in the grossly-affected northern regions of Mozambique and several southern provinces such as Gaza fell through the cracks. Landmines posed a threat not only to the lives and safety of the people but also kept any development firmly away because of the ever-present danger of destruction.

APOPO formally declared the Gaza province free of all landmines and detonated the last three mines in December 2013 to commemorate the achievement and officially hand over the region to IND. Also present at the event were the Foreign Affairs Vice Minister for Government of Mozambique, Governor of the Gaza province, Country Representative of UNDP Mozambique, Diane Verstraeten, Chairperson of the APOPO Board, and the Belgian Ambassador to Mozambique 

Speaking on the event on behalf of HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, the Belgian Ambassador said “Today is a day for celebration for not only Mozambique and its people, but also for the rest of the world. The country has set a shining example of how national priorities can be achieved with the right partnerships, sustained effort and, most importantly, sheer human intent.”

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Organization

APOPO vzw

Morogoro, Tanzania, Tanzania, United Republic of
http://www.apopo.org

Project Leader

Chris Hines

Morogoro, Tanzania, United Republic of

Where is this project located?

Map of Support APOPO's rats in their life-saving missions