Timor Leste Eye Program

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"Restoring a person's eyesight is one of the most gratifying things a doctor can do and makes an immense difference to the lives of the East Timorese people." Dr Nitin Verma, ophthalmologist.

Timor Leste is rebuilding its medical system, and the Timor Leste Eye Program (ETEP) is playing an active role in this task by performing eye operations and training local doctors and nurses. Blindness is an economic and social burden for a developing nation and there is an estimated 10,000 visually impaired East Timorese who would benefit from simple eye operations.

The ETEP, established in July 2000, is a program targeted at delivering eye-care services to Timor Leste. The program aims to assist in making Timor Leste self-sufficient in the provision of eye care by 2015 and to work towards completely eradicating preventable blindness by 2020. The program will achieve this goal through taking a range of approaches to ensure short term curative needs are met and long term self sustainability is achieved.

Each year the eye teams travel to Timor Leste to distribute spectacles, perform consultations and operations over one to two week visits. Six specialist visits are made each year and 800 to 1000 patients approximately are treated on each visit, with 100 to 150 patients receiving sight restoring surgery. The predominant surgery carried out by the visiting teams is cataract surgery. The team consists of optometrists, ophthalmologists and nurses who volunteer their time and skills to improve eye care in Timor Leste.

At the end of 2010:

  • 46,074 East Timorese have received a consultation
  • 4,811 surgical procedures have been performed
  • 29,460 spectacles have been dispensed.


The Timor Leste Eye Program is supported by the Australian Government, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, the local community and other charitable organisations. The Australia Timor Leste Program of Assistance for Specialist Services (ATLASS) program funds several of the ETEP team members, covers the costs of their surgical disposables and provides the administrative support for organizing team visits, processing donations and other related requirements.

See the work yourself by purchasing your copy of Twenty Minute Miracles, a photo book compiled by Ellen Whinnett, a Walkely award winning journalist. The book depicts the work of ETEP in Timor Leste through beautiful colour photographs. All proceeds from this book are donated to the Program. Fill the order form (PDF 57 KB) to purchase a copy.

How can you help?

The Timor Leste Eye Program welcomes donations to assist in providing life changing eye operations for the people of Timor Leste. Your donation will be used to purchase the medical supplies and equipment needed to deliver cataract surgery, perform eye examinations and train local doctors and nurses.

Donations - To make a donation by cash, credit card or cheque, please complete the donation form (PDF 490 KB). All cheques must be made payable to Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Please return the completed form with your donation to:

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
Timor Leste Eye Program
College of Surgeons' Gardens
250-290 Spring Street
East Melbourne VIC 3002 Australia

For more information on the program, please refer to the ETEP website.