2021 - 2023

APOPO – a global non-profit organization that has developed an innovative method using African giant pouched rats, nicknamed “HeroRATs”, to detect landmines and tuberculosis (TB) using their extraordinary sense of smell – is able to significantly speed up the detection process by using a combination of rats as well as manual deminers and machines. As rats only sniff out the explosives and ignore any scrap metal, they can clear an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes, whereas a metal detector would take up to 4 days. At the same time, the deployment of rats makes the demining process safer for the involved professionals and it is safe for the rats themselves. APOPO further deploys rats for tuberculosis (TB) screening as they increase partner clinic detection rates by 40%. Traditionally patients arrive in health clinics for TB screening and if the clinic is unable to diagnose them they return back home, continuing to spread the disease. Thanks to the amazing sense of smell of the HeroRATs they can screen 100 human sputum samples in 20 minutes. This would take a lab technician in a partner clinic up to 4 days.

The Light Foundation’s grant enabled APOPO to scale up its HeroRAT’s efforts for two key sites where their deployment generates tremendous impact: Tanzania and Cambodia.

  • In Tanzania, APOPO is increasing TB detection. Pre-Covid, the disease killed more people worldwide than any other infectious disease every year, with pediatric TB especially being a major cause of illness and death in children. Tanzania is classified as a high TB burden country, and the Dar es Salaam region is disproportionately affected. There is a big case detection gap, which hampers the efforts to eliminate TB. APOPO’s objective is to increase TB detection by 40%, and in particular, ramp up TB detection and care for children in Dar es Salaam, increase youth screening by 15%, and encourage their treatment initiation through improved “Find & Treat“ services for TB and capacity building among local partners.
  • In Cambodia, APOPO is accelerating mine clearance through the use of cost-efficient land release and animal detection methods. Cambodia remains one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world, with the highest number of landmine victims per capita. APOPO’s objective is to release 15,138,000 m2 of contaminated areas in Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Battambang provinces over three years, thereby increasing civilian security and protecting children lives. APOPO is also actively piloting the use of the HeroRATs with partners, thereby envisioning their long-term systemic change on cost efficiency across the Mine Action industry.

Funding from the Light Foundation will allow APOPO to clear 15,375,00 m2 of mine-free land to be used afterward by local small-holder farmers. An estimated 2,000 landmines are expected to be safely disposed of. Further, the program assists 350 child victims with transport to rehabilitation centers and back and is working with its partner MAG (Mine Advisory Group) to integrate HeroRATs within their assets. Approximately 10,000 children and 75,000 adults will be screened for TB which will increase early treatment of TB infected children.