By Anupama Tantri
Earlier this year, we shared good news from Timor-Leste. During a workshop in February, Timor-Leste renewed its commitment to control and eliminate NTDs. With the support of all levels of government, from the Ministry of Health to the Prime Minister’s office, and with partners such as AusAID, the University of Sydney, and the Rotary Club of Sydney, this commitment is translating into action.
Despite rapid economic improvements in the country since independence, almost 30 percent of children are infected with intestinal worms and approximately 17 percent of the total population is infected with lymphatic filariasis. These and other NTDs can be severely debilitating, contributing to school absenteeism and reduced productivity. NTDs disproportionately affect the very poor and trap families in a cycle of poverty.
Earlier efforts to control NTDs in Timor-Leste from 2005 to 2008 proved effective, but before these programs could achieve their goals, they were stalled due to a lack of funding.
One unique example of how the government and these partners are coming together to mobilize resources for NTD control and elimination comes to life in the story of a painting by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão.
Prime Minister Gusmão completed the painting in 1994 while being held as a political prisoner in Jakarta, Indonesia. The painting was smuggled out of the prison and sent to former President and Nobel Laureate Dr. José Ramos-Horta, who was in exile in Portugal at the time, as a birthday present. In October 2012, Dr. Ramos-Horta donated this painting for auction in order to raise funds for NTD control and elimination in Timor-Leste.
The Isin-Di’ak Fund, a charitable fund established by the University of Sydney, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Sydney is raising money to return the painting to Timor-Leste to be kept on permanent display in the National Resistance Museum in Dili. The aim is to raise $300,000 for the national NTD control program by June 30, 2013. The person who donates the most during this fundraiser will receive a print of the painting signed by Prime Minister Gusmão. To learn more visit: http://www.sydneyrotary.com/presidents-projects/.