APOPO is a non-profit organisation which has developed an innovative method of detecting landmines and tuberculosis: African giant pouched rats. The rats, nicknamed HeroRATs, use their extraordinary sense of smell to identify these threats and ultimately help make life much safer for people all over the world.
Players of People's Postcode Lottery have raised £650,000 for this great cause, which has directly helped those across the world who are living in fear of landmines and has meant that people with tuberculosis can receive life-saving treatment.
There are approximately 3,000 landmine accidents globally each year. The vast majority of people affected are not related to the original conflict, and many of them are children. Too light to set off the landmines, the rats have proven to be extremely able detectors. This means that the mines can be cleared quickly, and at a lower overall cost.
Tuberculosis (TB) is now the world's leading cause of death by infectious disease. Since 2007, APOPO's HeroRATs have helped increase TB case-detection by over 40%. This has been accomplished by screening thousands of samples from public clinics in Tanzania and Mozambique.
In Angola, APOPO, and its mine-clearance partner NPA, recently cleared the land surrounding the Ngola Luije school. The school had been a defensive military base during the war and for many years children had been playing near a landmine only 20 metres away.
Francisco Mauricio, the school's headmaster, explained, "When the children kicked a ball into the overgrown minefield, if no adults were around they would draw straws to see who would go and get it."
The funds raised by players of People's Postcode Lottery has, so far, enabled APOPO to train the special HeroRATs and send them to places like Angola and Cambodia where they have been sorely needed.
Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said, “The rats used by APOPO certainly merit their nickname ‘HeroRATs’ and I am delighted that as a result of funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery that even more rats have been trained to save lives.”