A special update from our CEO
Mending the hearts of people, and a nation
What an incredible week it has been! It started with the publication of landmark research into rheumatic heart disease, a study that we proudly supported and funded.
The government of Timor-Leste has been quick to act on the study’s alarming findings that Timor-Leste has amongst the world’s highest rates of rheumatic heart disease (RHD), and that girls are worst affected, with one in 20 suffering from this treatable, preventable condition.
Along with representatives of the World Health Organisation Timor-Leste, senior government and non-government officials and a large media contingent, yesterday I attended an announcement by the Timor-Leste Ministério da Saúde (Ministry of Health).
The rapid response from the Timor-Leste government should be commended. In a statement the Director-General for Health Services at the Ministry of Health described the findings as very troubling and said:
“There is no time for complacency, we must take action. Today we commit to working with partners including East Timor Hearts Fund to develop an action plan and guidelines for combatting RHD in Timor-Leste.”
The swift and decisive action taken by the Timorese government is timely, as global health leaders prepare to meet in Geneva next month at the World Health Assembly. One of the key agenda items will be a resolution for action on rheumatic heart disease. Congratulations to our friends at the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health for yesterday supporting action in their own country, as well as flagging support for a resolution.
Rheumatic heart disease is a preventable, treatable form of cardiovascular disease. According to World Heart Federation it claims 275,000 lives a year and affects more than 32 million people worldwide. Thanks to our prevalence study, we now know that in Timor-Leste this includes one in 28 people, and as many as one in 20 girls.
The meeting in Dili yesterday concluded with a powerful and moving statement by 12-year-old Tanizia. Tanizia has rheumatic heart disease but stays well because she receives life-saving penicillin through our work with our partners and the Ministry of Health. Tanizia said:
“Thank you to the doctors and those who support my treatment. May God bless you.”
How you can help
We receive no government funding. Our campaign for healthy hearts in Timor-Leste relies entirely on donor support. You can help by making a tax-deductible donation today. And please check our website and our Facebook page to find out more about how we are helping to mend broken hearts, not just for individual patients like Tanizia, but for a nation.
Thank you for your support,
Stuart Thomson, CEO
East Timor Hearts Fund
Thank you to our volunteer photographer Fernando Lim.