Chad | HI finalizes 2-year drone tests to support demining
In March, Humanity & Inclusion finalized its two-year drone experimentation in Northern Chad with its partners Mobility Robotics and FlyingLabs Côte d’Ivoire.
For the first time in the history of humanitarian mine action, drone flights were operated with Infra-Red in a real environment alongside weapons clearance operations.
Throughout the two-year project, Humanity & Inclusion tested drones to map and inspect hazardous areas. Teams in Chad captured photos and videos remotely to help deminers inspect unreachable locations and identify hazards on the surface and also created high-resolution maps to study signs of contamination such as craters or traces of landmine accidents involving animals or vehicles.
Humanity & Inclusion and its partners achieved a world-first in humanitarian mine action when teams used a thermal sensor flown on a small drone to locate buried anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines in desert minefields.
Teams faced daily challenges including remote locations, road hazards, extreme heat up to 124°F, sandstorms, food and water difficulties, scorpions, and landmine and explosive ordnances.
During those two years:
- More than 100 drone missions took place in 65 locations
- Travel to hazardous areas from the base took between 30 minutes and 1.5 days
- More than 35 polygons and 19 miles of strip minefields were mapped
- More than 2,500 landmines were located with the thermal sensor
- Dozens of nights were spent in the desert under the stars
- Six Chadian deminers were trained to operate small drones
This innovative project was made possible with generous funding from The Belgian Directorate-General Development and the European Union, and with support from people of the Haut Commissariat National de Déminage au Tchad.
Uganda | 3D printing technology helps Hakim walk
Humanity & Inclusion is using telemedicine and 3D printing to provide physical rehabilitation services for refugees in Uganda. This innovative technology is helping to improve mobility and restore hope!
When a member of Humanity & Inclusion’s psychosocial support team first met Hakim, he had lost all hope. As a teenager in South Sudan, Hakim had a severe case of malaria and experienced a stroke that left him unable to use the limbs on the right side of his body.
“I do not think this life is worth living,” Hakim said at the time. “With these impairments, I cannot take care of myself. I cannot bathe. I cannot participate in meetings. I cannot visit friends. I would be better off dead.”
Today, Hakim, who is in his 30s, lives in the Omugo refugee settlement in northern Uganda where accessing basic services and information can be especially difficult for people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion has been working in the area since 2017, providing different kinds of support to improve quality of life for the most vulnerable refugees.
Months of hard work
In the refugee settlement, Hakim and his family were connected with a physical therapist and a psychosocial worker from Humanity & Inclusion. Together, they have worked on physical exercises to help improve his mobility and independence, and both Hakim and his caretakers received counseling to relieve the stress and anxiety felt by the whole family.
Four months of hard work saw a steady improvement in Hakim’s ability to move around his home and less need for physical support from others. However, he was still unable to walk more than a few steps and remained confined to his home.
To progress further, Hakim needed a custom-fit brace that would provide support for his lower leg. Acquiring one would usually require a long and expensive journey to a rehabilitation center in the capital city, but Humanity & Inclusion is using the latest technology to provide these medical opportunities to people living in impoverished, remote places.
A high-tech solution
Hakim’s leg was scanned not far from his home using a portable kit comprised of a tablet computer and a structure sensor. The 3D scan was remotely modified by an expert to generate a computerized model of his made-to-measure splint. The splint was then produced by Humanity & Inclusion’s 3D printers in the nearest small town and brought back to Hakim by his physical therapist.
“My life has greatly changed ever since Humanity & Inclusion started working with me,” says Hakim. ‘“The orthosis has greatly improved my walking … I never imagined I would be able to walk for more than a mile! I can go to the hospital on my own, I participate in community meetings and my voice is heard!”
Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 in 2020, Humanity & Inclusion’s 3D rehabilitation team has reached more than 82 people like Hakim in Uganda’s refugee settlements. Each has their own story of restored independence and renewed hope.
Image: A man named Hakim sits in a chair while he is fitted for a 3D-printed splint at a rehabilitation center in a refugee camp in Uganda. Copyright: HI, 2020
Vietnam | Symbols-based app opens paths to communication
Imagine being hungry or needing to use the restroom, but having no way to communicate those needs. When a person has trouble speaking – often because of a physical disability or other health issue – participating in conversations with family members, friends, teachers, medical staff or neighbors can be difficult.
That’s why Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation project in Vietnam helped to translate and adapt Talk Tablet Pro, a symbols-based Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app, for Vietnamese people with disabilities to use. Talk Tablet VN, which launched in November, helps break down barriers for people with speech difficulties.
Talk Tablet VN displays a grid of boxes containing pictures and symbols that represent different words and phrases. The user can choose what to say – such as, “let’s go to eat” or “I would like to go to the park” – by tapping the corresponding symbols. Then the tablet speaks the word or phrase.
After the app launched in November, therapists and special educators completed a two-day training. The app – which can be downloaded from the Google’s Vietnam store – will be used across the country to help children with Cerebral Palsy or autism and adults with stroke or traumatic brain injury to communicate.
“We know that some of the people who need the most help simply don’t have the money for such devices,” explains Didier Demey, HI’s country manager for Vietnam operations. “Money should never be a barrier, so our donors have made the app and related tablets available for free to those who will benefit the most from it.”
HI is distributing 100 tablets and 500 promotional codes for people with disabilities – mostly children – to download the app. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 children in Vietnam could benefit from the app over time.
The idea for Talk Tablet VN was born from a project, funded in part by USAID, which is focused on enhancing and developing digital rehabilitation tools for people in Vietnam. Talk Tablet VN is the first of three AAC apps the team is working on to help Vietnamese people with complex communication needs. The two additional apps are in development and expected to launch early next year.