Located in the eastern part of Timor, an island in the Indonesian archipelago, it lies to the north west of Australia across the Timor Sea.

Since Timor-Leste’s independence in 2002, Australia has been its largest development partner and the two countries are working together to provide essential healthcare services, such as vaccinations to prevent children’s deaths from diseases.

Health challenges

Measured by both income and human development indicators, Timor-Leste is one of the world’s least developed countries. More than 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line of USD 88 cents a day. The vast majority of the poorer and more vulnerable communities live in the rural areas.

The major health problems currently affecting Timor-Leste according to the World Health Organization are:

  • One of the highest rates of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Asia.
  • More than 45 per cent of children are underweight for their age especially those living in rural areas
  • Limited access to clean water and basic sanitation contributes to the spread of infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, which can be fatal.
  • Malaria is highly endemic in all districts with the highest morbidity and mortality rates reported in children
  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem with an estimated 8,000 active TB cases nationally
  • Infectious disease, low utilisation of skilled assistance for antenatal and poor reproductive health are the most common causes of infant mortality
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are common in sexually active age groups, mostly in Dili and Baucau districts.
  • Life expectancy is low at around 62 years.

Burnet’s work

We are involved in a range of public health projects focused on sexual and reproductive health, young people’s health, maternal and child health and infectious diseases such as malaria, through our Centres for International Health and Immunology.

In Timor-Leste, many women lose their lives during childbirth due to limited resources. The vast majority of deliveries (70 per cent) are conducted at home without a skilled birth attendant and most women do not receive post delivery visits to check on their health or that of their child.

Midwifery training in Timor-Leste

Image: Burnet conducted midwifery training in Timor-Leste in 2019

Burnet is involved in providing expert technical assistance and organisational development support for HADIAK (Strengthening Districts in the Implementation of Primary Health Care Activities).

Contact Details

For more information about our work in Timor-Leste, please contact:

Burnet Institute






Current Projects

  • Building capacity and improving tuberculosis diagnosis in Timor-Leste

  • Gender Counts

  • Rapid review of maternal health recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Sexual and reproductive health in Asia and the Pacific