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 Timorese people." Dr Nitin Verma, ophthalmologist and founder of the East Timor Eye Program (ETEP).

Timor-Leste is rebuilding its medical system, and the ETEP is playing an active role in this task by performing eye operations and training national doctors and nurses. Blindness is an economic and social burden for a developing nation and there is an estimated 10,000 visually impaired 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 300 to 500 patients approximately are treated on each visit, with 50 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 2013:

  • 48,000+ Timorese patients screened
  • 6,800+ surgical procedures performed
  • 35,000+ spectacles dispensed


The ETEP is managed by the College, and supported by numerous corporate, community and individual donors.

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 ETEP 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:

RACS Global Health
East Timor 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 or contact gwyn.low@surgeons.org