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Mar 23, 2018

FINDING LEADERS FOR A TB-FREE WORLD

Benny is now free of TB thanks to APOPO.
Benny is now free of TB thanks to APOPO.

 

March 24 is World TB Day

Themed “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free World”, a 'TB leader', according to the Stop TB Partnership, is a head of state, minister, mayor, governor, parliamentarian or community leader.

At APOPO, in our 20-year history and one-and-half decades of TB research, we have encountered many of these formidable TB leaders who have contributed to the cause through ideas, vision, hands-on support, collaboration and financial assistance to embark on something newto train rats to detect TB.

APOPO’s operational headquarters and first TB research site began in 2002 in Tanzania, supported by the Sokoine University of Agriculture. Research in Mozambique (since 2013) and Ethiopia (2018) has followed. These three countries have a common cause in that they face a high TB burden with approximately half of their nationwide TB patients remaining undetected. These ‘missed’ TB positive patients often include the most vulnerable, and those without proper access to care. Left untreated TB patients can pass on the pathogen to others, and up to two thirds of TB patients will eventually die.

APOPO is conducting on-going research into developing and deploying TB detection rats as a diagnostic tool. In brief, human sputum samples are collected from partner DOTS clinics that have already tested them for TB using locally available sputum smear microscopy, which has a limited sensitivity. Rats re-test these (heat-inactivated) samples and make additional positive indications that are then rechecked using WHO endorsed confirmation tests such as LED fluorescence microscopy. Confirmed TB-positive results are conveyed to clinics that orchestrate patient treatment. This research approach raises our partner clinic detection rates by 40%.

The action does not end here. We are engaging in partnerships with community health workers – often former TB patients who have decided to join patient organizations and take a lead – guiding newly diagnosed TB patients and linking them to care. The sample evaluation by rats also feeds into basic research on scent detection and on biomarkers, i.e. what the rats actually smell. The research on the rats may lead and guide the development and refinement of synthetic diagnostic devices, such as e-noses.

That this innovation roots in Tanzania is not by coincidence; the United Republic of Tanzania is a TB leader itself. It is in Tanzania where the first national, nationwide tuberculosis program was founded - the NTLP (Tanzanian National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Programme) - and it was here, where the shorter, supervised anti-TB treatment has been trialled in the hope of achieving higher cure rates. Tanzania’s research and experience would later feed into the new control strategy of the WHO.

We all can be TB leaders through our efforts to end TB in our own work or terrain. This can be as easy as spreading the word that TB still exists, kills, and is a major issue in economically challenged countries. As Lucica Ditiu, the Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership states: “We owe [it] to us and future generations […]. We must end TB!” 

APOPO thanks health authorities across the countries in which it works for their continued support, in addition to funding partners. 

TB samples are checked by qualified technicians.
TB samples are checked by qualified technicians.
Benny is now free of TB thanks to APOPO.
Benny is now free of TB thanks to APOPO.
Confirming rat-identified TB positive samples.
Confirming rat-identified TB positive samples.
Feb 13, 2018

Paving the Way for Women in Cambodia

Malen is determined to make a difference
Malen is determined to make a difference

Many people working for APOPO have personally experienced the devastation that undetected landmines can cause. APOPO rat handler Malen was kind enough to share her history of being part of a community living in fear.

Malen grew up in a small village in Svay Rieng near the border with Vietnam. Her community was made up of a few farming families that cultivated the land. Except that the land was riddled with landmines from Cambodia’s long years of conflict.

When Malen was only four years old she witnessed a man she knew from the village step on a landmine and lose both his legs. In fact, Malen’s passion to join APOPO was driven from her own experiences when she was growing up, of the devastation caused by the explosive hazards left from the conflict.

Emotional and Physical Casualties

Data collected by the landmine monitor show that the majority of casualties (84%) are men and boys. But women and girls are perhaps more vulnerable to the indirect impact of landmines — economically, socially and emotionally. Malen has seen first-hand the unspeakable physical and emotional impact that landmines enact. This horrific memory has always stayed with Malen and she is determined to make a difference. Sadly, her story reflects reality for thousands of Cambodian families.

“I joined the Cambodia Mine Action Center (CMAC) in 2009 because I wanted to become a deminer. My parents did not want me to take the job because they thought it was too dangerous.” said Malen. When Malen heard about the new partnership with APOPO and CMAC in 2015 she immediately signed up to join the rat teams.

“I love animals and was intrigued by the rats. When I heard how quickly they can find landmines I knew I wanted to become a rat handler.” Malen is proud to be part of a partnership between CMAC and APOPO that is helping communities who are in dire straits. She is also is grateful for the chance it has given her to learn about rats and what their amazing sense of smell can do. “My favorite rat is Isaac - he was the first rat that I worked with, and he finds the landmines so quickly. But don’t get me wrong…finding and destroying landmines is hard work."

Inspiring Women in Cambodia

Cultural norms in Cambodia mean that in some communities Malen will still need to overcome the judgment of her working in a role that is considered a “man’s job.” She is prepared for this and hopes that by example she will inspire other Cambodian women to join APOPO and CMAC in the future.

“Some people still think this is not a woman’s job” She says, “But my team don’t care. As long as me and Isaac get the job done, that’s all that counts. It’s a dangerous job but we are all in it together. ”

 

Danger Sign
Danger Sign
Deadly Landmine
Deadly Landmine
Team Work
Team Work

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Jan 31, 2018

HeroTREES Empowering Farmers

To become carbon neutral, Apopo needs to sequestrate carbon equal to 2000 planted trees a year. Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), in partnership with APOPO, developed a programme which empowers farmers to develop their own food forests.

It’s design guarantees that each involved farmer chooses a minimum of 5 tree species which will be later planted on his or her plot. All farmers are trained in tree nursery establishment and all planted trees are from their own prepared nurseries.

Key Updates

  • APOPO and SAT launched the project with 60 farmers in 2016
  • A further 40 farmers started in 2017
  • We are pleased to announce that a further 12 farmers will be joining the program in 2018

Every year, one new group of farmers will enter the project and start planting trees. It is forecasted that a farmer will plant an average of 100 trees.

The new farmers will stay in the project for a duration of 5 years. This means that if a group of farmers enters a year, they will receive support for a duration of five years to care for and maintain the trees. With entering the 5-year cycle, the farmers receive training so that they gain the needed skill set to cultivate and maintain their own food forests.size.

Thank you for your support!

The forests of the Uluguru Mountains are of critical importance to indigenous village communities, the cities of Morogoro and Dar es Salaam, and the survival of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Furthermore, the project area is of vital importance to for Morogoro city's water supply.

On behalf of the communities involved, please keep supporting this vital work.

 

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