Cahora & Tete

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Rodent heroes in Mozambique

Rodent heroes in Mozambique

The Mozambique TB handler team
The Mozambique TB handler team



Mozambique once had the most serious landmine crisis in the world, a result of 25 years of civil war. This was one of the reasons for Mozambique ranking amongst the poorest countries in the world - no development could take place until the mines were cleared, which was a lengthy and costly process.

Since 2008, APOPO (Anti-Persoonmiynen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling or Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development) has cleared 10.9 million m2 of land. In the last year alone it has helped clear more than 2.3 million m2 of ground in Maputo, Manica, Tete and Sofala, releasing the land back to the community and allowing people to return to age-old activities of arable and cattle farming. Moreover, these communities can now begin the more serious planning of development in their areas. To date all but two provinces of Mozambique have been declared mine-free.

APOPO in Mozambique has five manual demining teams, two sections of mine detection rat handlers, thirty-two rats and five armoured machines for ground preparation. Although mine clearing is sponsored by aid agencies and embassies, the aim is for the local people to take control and not rely on outside help.

In 2006, a National Emergency was declared in Mozambique due to the escalating numbers of people infected with tuberculosis. In 2011, there were 548 cases of TB per 100,000 people and by 2014, 60,000 people were diagnosed with the disease – and the figures are on the rise.

 A quick, effective means of detection is needed in such extreme circumstances. This is provided by the HeroRATs who take 30 minutes to work through 100 samples, something that would take four days for a lab technician to achieve. The rat goes from sample to sample and stops and rubs its legs together if one is positive.

To aid the fight against tuberculosis, APOPO has built and equipped a TB detection rat facility at the Veterinary School which is part of the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. Once its detection rat technology is well established at the university, APOPO aims to introduce it to other parts of the city and to the country at large, to partner with a number of health centres.