As a boy, Bart Weetjens loved all kinds of rodents. He kept them as pets and bred them to earn extra spending money. It was early 1990s and the landmine issue was being addressed in the media. While searching for an alternative detector, Bart remembered his youth pets with their logistic conveniences and easy trainability. Bart’s proposals to investigate using trained rats as landmine detectors were laughed at for a few years; but with persistence, he secured a research grant from the Belgian Government in 1997 and APOPO was launched. Since then, Bart and his colleagues developed and deployed the HeroRATS’ technology to become Africa’s preferred landmine countermeasure technology in 2006.
IMPACT AS OF JAN. 2013:
- APOPO’s HeroRATS have returned 6,423,361 million square meters of suspected minefields to original populations in Mozambique, impacting more than 1.4 million individuals. In doing so, the team found and destroyed 1,927 landmines, 1,017 Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs) and 12,168 Small Arms and Ammunitions (SAA).
- APOPO’s mine action capacity has continued to grow over the last couple of years and they have 7 manual demining teams, 54 MDRs and 3 mechanical ground preparation machines.
- This African approach is now being copied in Latin America and South East Asia.
- APOPO’s HeroRATS diagnosed over 2,500 TB patients in Tanzania and prevented TB infection in 13,500 healthy people.
- APOPO offers second-line screening to partner hospitals, which increased new case detection rates in partner hospitals and DOT centers by over 30 percent.
- At the Morogoro Research Center in Tanzania, 54 accredited TB rats have been trained; 24 research and training staff were trained and 10 scientific publications were written.
- At the 16 Dar es Salaam collaborating TB clinics, 146,601 sputum samples have been screened since 2007. This has led to the diagnosis of 2,899 additional TB patients that have been identified by rats. (They were first diagnosed as negative, and now can be cured).
- In Maputo, Mozambique, APOPO’s TB detection operations will identify the maximum number of TB patients in the shortest amount of time, to support the Mozambican National TB Control Program. There are 8 participating health units who expect 567 samples per week, with 8 accredited TB rats working.
SEE THEIR WORK IN ACTION: