Timor-Leste has one of the world’s highest rates of rheumatic heart disease. However, the good news is that it’s not only treatable but preventable.
We’re helping to tackle the root causes of poor heart health in Timor-Leste, by working to identify those at risk of rheumatic heart disease and providing them with early treatment.
Our volunteer medical team visits Timor-Leste at least three times a year to conduct heart screening clinics. As part of our early intervention preventative penicillin program, we deliver regular antibiotic shots to young people with early symptoms, to stop their rheumatic heart disease from worsening.
Our Australian medical volunteers and dedicated local health workers deliver education for health workers, family members and the community about the dangers of rheumatic heart disease and how they can detect and prevent it.
Through our Every Heart Everywhere initiative, we are expanding our remote area clinics with a goal of screening more than 300 patients from remote and isolated areas each year. We will also be expanding our activities in prevention and training of local health workers, families and communities in heart health.
Deonisio dos Santos is 14, but unlike most teenage boys, he needs regular health care to keep his heart beating strong.
Without the crucial support of our rheumatic heart disease prevention project, Deonisio’s symptoms would worsen, his quality of life would deteriorate and eventually he would need life-saving surgery. To keep Deonisio healthy and smiling, he receives monthly penicillin injections. His family, the community and local health professionals receive education about the symptoms and causes of rheumatic heart disease.
“Before receiving penicillin Deonisio was breathless, had swollen legs and couldn’t go to school,” his mum Joaquinha Soares says. “Now he can play soccer and run and go to school.”
Deonisio has become a big advocate for healthy hearts. “I even organise all the other children to come and get their penicillin and tell them that they will feel healthy afterwards,” he says.
The rheumatic heart disease prevention and community awareness project runs in two districts in Timor-Leste and is conducted in close co-operation with the Ministry of Health and our local partner Maluk Timor. We hope this project can provide a good model for the Ministry of Health to expand its work nation-wide in the coming years.
Anary da Silva is the lead project coordinator for our rheumatic heart disease prevention program in partnership with local health organisation Maluk Timor. Anary leads the team every 28 days into remote communities, ensuring young girls and boys receive penicillin injections to keep their hearts healthy.
Anary also spends time with the children, families, teachers and community leaders, educating them on the symptoms, risks and prevention of rheumatic heart disease, as well as encouraging people to seek treatment if necessary.
“My aim is to do some good things for the community and work together to prevent kids from having rheumatic heart disease,” Anary says.