Surgeons practice their skills on FAST during pilot testing in Burkina Faso in June 2016. (Photo: Zeina Sifri)

Customs officials in Africa may be a bit surprised when they look inside several boxes due to arrive soon from the United States. But the unusual cargo – a life-size model of a man’s groin, sans pantalons – is for a good cause.

The Filariacele Anatomical Surgical Trainer, or FAST, is an anatomically precise mannequin for use in training surgeons how to operate on men suffering from hydrocele, the severe swelling of the scrotum caused by the disease lymphatic filariasis.

Hydrocele occurs when filarial worms transmitted by mosquitos lodge in the lymphatic vessels of the scrotum, causing fluid to accumulate. In particularly acute cases, the enlarged scrotum may hang down to the knees.

It’s not hard to imagine the disability and shame suffered by men with hydrocele. Studies have documented their inability to move freely due to pain, their embarrassment at appearing in public, their undesirability as marriage partners, and even their rejection by wives. And when hydrocele robs men of their ability to work, the economic blow can extend to families and communities.