Pharmacy Dept of the Ministry of Health, East Timor
This placement was the result of being awarded the Mathew Peck Scholarship in 2005. Mathew Peck was an undergraduate pharmacy student who passed away tragically in an accident while travelling in South America in 2003. The scholarship was established to honour Mathew's life and to continue his commitment to international health issues.
About the place:
One of the things that stood out for me was that Timor Leste will, for many years to come, remain strongly affected by its difficult and turbulent past. However the country has so much to offer. Dili, the capital city, sits on a flat plane on the north coast. All around it mountains rise dramatically, up to 2000m or higher. The majority of Timor Leste's land is mountainous. The highest mountain is just under 3000m and the scenery around the city is just stunning. It also has stunning coral reefs and marine life, making for fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving.
Timor Leste is only 400km north of the Australian land mass and Dili is about a 1.5 hour flight from Darwin. The country's history is heart-wrenching, but the struggles of health care, food, water supply, sanitation, education and employment continue today.
I worked with the Pharmacy Dept of the Ministry of Health, coordinating and participating in a small project concerning private pharmacies in Dili. I undertook a situation analysis, collecting data on certain unsafe over-the-counter and prescription medicines that are widely sold in community pharmacies. It took a lot of time to gain an understanding of the situation in Timor Leste - the national health system, the state of pharmacy services, the current difficulties, the culture and its history. Because I had limited skills in the local language tetum, I had to rely on the help of locals whilst collecting my data, and I realized that development in general in these areas can be a very slow process. My project, although tiny in comparison to the work some other people are doing in Timor Leste, will prove useful in advising the Ministry of Health on future actions to take to ensure the safe and effective sales of medicines from private pharmacies.
Leaving at the end of my 6 weeks was difficult, I had grown very fond of the people, and I had learnt a lot about pharmacy which I could take back with me. In my short time I was able to meet many fascinating, inspiring and intelligent people, all who had traveled to East Timor to share their knowledge and skills. My experience was eye-opening, confronting and inspiring, and I felt privileged to be able to contribute in a positive way.