This is a post from Lions Clubs International Foundation, an Eye Health Investor at the 10GA, on their work in Timor Leste through their SightFirst programme.
Timor Leste is a small country located to the southeast of Indonesia and northwest of Australia. It has a population of just over a million people, half of whom are under the age of 18, with a majority living in rural areas. Timor Leste’s infrastructure was almost completely destroyed in the violence that followed the vote for independence in 1999, which also left the country without a viable health care workforce. The country continues to rely heavily on visiting teams from other countries while slowly trying to build its local health care capacity.
The Lions of Australia have a long history of support to Timor Leste, including leading teams to repair and build hospitals and schools, supplying medical aid and spectacles, and supporting the eye care and transportation of patients in remote areas.
When the Lions of Australia decided to apply for a SightFirst grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), a national eye health survey had found that 91 percent of people had reported a previous or current eye or vision problem, yet only 34 percent of these had ever sought out care. Many people did not know treatment was available or were not able to get to a doctor. The survey indicated that approximately 47,000 people over the age of 40 had some sort of visual impairment. It was determined that nearly all of these conditions are preventable or treatable.
The Lions undertook this project to build the country’s overall eye care capacity by strengthening the existing eye care human resources and improving the infrastructure at the district level. Infrastructure upgrades include providing ophthalmic equipment to five eye clinics and establishing a prosthetic eye lab.
This project is a collaboration between the Lions of Timor Leste, District 201-Q4, Lions Recycle for Sight Australia, the Ministry of Health and the RACS Timor Leste Eye Program.