ETHF partnership – Rheumatic Heart Disease program

The Rheumatic Heart Disease program, in close conjunction with partner East Timor Hearts Fund (ETHF), hit the ground running.

Ainary, Carolina and healthy heart kids

Under the new leadership of Ricardo Flavio (Ricky), the team has been kept very busy: the delivery of penicillin to school children with rheumatic heart disease continues, led by Ainary Dos Santos, including monthly visits to the mountainous district of Letefoho. He and the team are preparing to see this project double in size next year with another screening program in April-May, meaning more lifesaving injections for kids who would have otherwise gone untreated.

looking for a healthy heart

Meanwhile Ricky has been working tirelessly to ensure a smooth preparation and transition for a number of Timorese patients being transferred to Australia for critical cardiac surgery (through ETHF). We met up with one of the success stories today, Dina, pictured left with her husband and child. Two months ago Dina appeared too unwell to make the trip to Australia, and her death seemed imminent, but a huge effort from the team saw her through to Sydney and successful treatment, accompanied by one of our team, Fatima Mendonca. Her heart restored, her breathlessness resolved, and a new future ahead of her.

Dina and her family

If there’s ever a quiet day, the team are put to work in the headquarters. Dr Alice Coe from Australia has been running teaching modules on cardiac health, including basic echocardiography training (ultrasound), and the dissection of a cow’s heart (purely for educational purposes!). All of this makes the team better able to explain the disease, and the importance of treatment, to the children and families.

Anatomy of a heart

They’ve also been led through a design workshop and a detailed program review to optimise the strategies going forward, leading the nation in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic heart disease.

Help us do even more

Even though healthcare in Timor-Leste has improved, there is still so much more to do.  

A small amount of money goes a long way with the per person health budget less than US$100 per year. 


Covers the cost of petrol for a month so a healthcare worker can provide home visits around Dili.

$58 p/month

in 12 months

Covers the cost of running a nutrition referral project in one community healthcare centre.

$650 p/month

Covers the full cost to employ a nurse who can help deliver our programs.