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Demining with drones and 3D prosthetic projects win $2.3 million high-tech humanitarian aid prize

SEPTEMBER 24, 2020

Silver Spring, MD—The European Union Horizon Prize 2020 has honored Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of handicap international) with two awards for its Odyssey2025 project on the use of drones in mine clearance operations, and its Tele Rehabilitation For All project.

At a ceremony in Brussels on September 24, Humanity & Inclusion received two of the five prizes of the inaugural European Union Horizon Prize for Affordable High-Tech for Humanitarian Aid. Humanity & Inclusion is the only organization to receive two awards. Its use of drones in demining operations won the "Other humanitarian assistance” category, while its pilot telerehabilitation project won the "Health and medical care” category. Each category carries a prize of one million euros.

Founded almost four decades ago, Humanity & Inclusion has been at the forefront of many of the innovations and initiatives that have revolutionized humanitarian assistance, from telerehabilitation to the 3D-printing of prostheses, and the use of drones to locate anti-personnel mines. The organization explores innovative solutions adapted to humanitarian needs and believes innovation should be as widely accessible and beneficial as possible.

The prize money allows Humanity & Inclusion to establish a new fund to help fuel future advances. “A humanitarian fund for innovation helps us continue a path we began laying in 1982, in the Thai refugee camps for Cambodians,” explains Humanity & Inclusion’s Global Managing Director, Manuel Patrouillard. “Without suitable workshops, we had to innovate to orthopedically fit 6,000 amputees—many of them landmine victims—with bamboo prostheses. 

"The Tele Rehabilitation For All project and the use of 3D technology reflects something that’s in Humanity & Inclusion's DNA: a desire to improve the quality and impact of our response using accessible technologies. Innovation is not just for specialists. It should be widely accessible. We are committed to that goal.” 

Indeed, by producing bamboo, and leather, wood and tire prostheses, and wooden wheelchairs, Humanity & Inclusion was the first humanitarian organization to develop simple and cost-effective orthopedic devices adapted to the local context. Forty years on, Humanity & Inclusion is the first organization in the world to combine telerehabilitation and the production of 3D prostheses. Humanity & Inclusion provides physical therapy sessions by video link and produces prostheses remotely for amputees by scanning stumps and then 3D-printing prostheses.

“A person with a disability who needs a prosthesis has to travel to a rehabilitation center for treatment by professionals at each stage of care,” explains Isabelle Urseau, Technical Director of the Rehabilitation. “There are few or no centers in many parts of the world. Armed conflicts can also restrict travel. Since 2016, we have developed our telerehabilitation activities to provide rehabilitation care to people who are isolated or unable to access services. By using digital technology combined with 3D printing, we can now produce and supply high-quality prostheses and orthoses for less money, and provide rehabilitation care to people we were unable to access previously.”

Humanity & Inclusion’s humanitarian demining programs launched in 1992, in Cambodia, a country heavily contaminated by anti-personnel mines. The humanitarian demining space has come a long way since, and at the end of 2019, reached a new milestone when Humanity & Inclusion achieved a demining world-first when it successfully located mines buried in the desert using drones equipped with infrared cameras. “We can also map vast areas of contaminated land in record time,” explains Emmanuel Sauvage, Armed violence reduction Director for Humanity & Inclusion. “Using conventional methods, it used to take weeks to investigate a suspected hazardous area. These new methods will accelerate clearance and land release for local populations."

Humanity & Inclusion is committed to developing solutions based on the latest discoveries and newest uses of technology. Staff work to apply practical innovations immediately, in a way that is simple and easy to adopt for local actors. Innovation has an ethical imperative to provide real and effective aid to vulnerable people, including children, single women, and older people, and to help them live in dignity.



Interviews available upon request with Humanity & Inclusion’s experts

The Horizon Prize

  • The European Union Horizon Prize for Affordable High-Tech for Humanitarian Aid was launched in 2020. It is divided into five categories: shelter and related assistance; water, hygiene, and sanitation; energy; health and medical care; and other humanitarian assistance (open category). Each category has a fund of one million euros and is awarded to an initiative that addresses major humanitarian challenges.

The two projects from Humanity & Inclusion awarded prizes by the European Union:

  • Funded by the Belgian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD), and in collaboration with Mobility Robotics, the Odyssey2025 project ran from September 2018 to March 2019. The drones were tested in Chad where HI carries out demining operations, supervised by the National High Commission for Demining (HCND) as part of the “Support for the demining, development, and social protection of vulnerable people” project (PRODECO) funded by the European Union and supported by the Chadian government. Testing was made possible with the support of the European Union and the availability of an operational testing ground. Follow Mobility Robotics on Twitter here.
  • Since 2016, Humanity & Inclusion has conducted four scientific studies on telerehabilitation and 3D prosthesis printing. It has worked with leading universities, private companies, and NGOs. The research was based on clinical trials and pilot projects in six different countries, including Uganda and Togo to rapidly produce affordable, high-quality prostheses in a range of contexts.
    • 3D Technology: In Brief
      • The 3D file obtained is sent to a specific printer which solidifies the material layer by layer, to obtain the final device.
      • Digital modeling software is used to modify and adapt the device to be printed according to the patient’s needs.
      • A lightweight and easy-to-use scanner makes it simple to take accurate measurements of the limb(s) requiring an orthopaedic device.
      • A CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing Design) file is then created.

About Humanity & Inclusion

Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict, and disaster for nearly 40 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. In 2019, the organization reached more than 2 million people with direct aid. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, and the winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.


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