International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy


Kumi Leprosy Centre


Category Leprosarium
Country Uganda


Kumi and Ongino lie in the Teso district and are about six miles apart.

Kumi Hospital is located in Eastern Uganda between Mbale and Soroti, 8 km off Kumi Town in Eastern direction in Ongino Sub-County. It was originally founded as a leprosy colony in 1929 by Church Missionary Society. In 1930 Wiggins of the CMS opened the hospital at Kumi for the treatment of children suffering from leprosy. Over the years the Hospital provided much needed care for the leprosy sufferers implementing Leprosy Control Programme and bringing hope, healing and wholeness to the people affected with Leprosy. As patients were brought to Kumi, leprosy villages grew up around the hospital, where treatment and later rehabilitation was provided.

In his article, "A review of the leprosy work in Ethiopia, Uganda, N. Rhodesia and Tanganyika", Lep Rev, 33.2, 141-53, Dr N D Fraser, described the school at Kumi as follows (p. 146). 'One's first impression was of well-cared-for grounds, both at the Kumi School, and at the Ongino Leprosarium. Bush had been cleared, playing fields and gardens laid out, and wide tracts of lands brought under cultivation. Flowering shrubs and bushes brought colour into the scenery: and a flourishing honey-producing industry was attracting a lot of interest.

The school with 300 pupils was winning prizes for competitions open to all schools in the district; I saw the physical drill, and a football match, and found the spirit of the work excellent.' Fraser also visited one of the leprosy villages, where he found that 'the segregated patients were well cared for, and supervision was sufficient to encourage them to maintain their huts in good shape and the grounds in good condition. District officers, agricultural officers and health officers all helped in the supervision and development of the villages, and treatment wsa given by a medical assistant, or leprosy dresser, under the supervision of one of the members of the staff of the leprosarium. This made it possible to provide segregation and treatment for those patients suffering from the contagious form of the disease at very little cost and without removing them hundreds of miles from their families and normal environment. In fact relatives (but not children) were encouraged to visit members of their family in the villages and to bring them food, etc., in so doing maintaining contact with them throughout the period of their treatment.' By the mid 1990’s, as Multidrug Therapy for leprosy became more widespread, the number of leprosy patients decreased. Since 1997 the hospital has cared for patients with general disabilities as well as those caused by leprosy.

Between the years 1986 - 1992, the Teso Region was economically and socially devastated by civil war as a result of rebellion and the dreaded cattle rustling by a hostile neighbouring nomadic tribe. Cattle keeping was the main economic substrate of this area. The Hospital was not spared either. The infrastructure, water pumping and carrying systems, buildings and Hospital equipment was looted or vandalized. The social and moral fabric of the Communities collapsed and the Hospital lay in a sorry state. Since 1997, the Hospital infrastructure was rehabilitated and upgraded and the Hospital transformed into a General Hospital albeit carrying the scars and legacy of those dark days. To date Kumi Hospital is a 300-bed Hospital providing the following services among others: Referral Hospital for TB/Leprosy for Eastern Region; General Hospital services including in-patient Services; Reconstructive and Rehabilitative services for the physically disabled; Fabrication and fitting of artificial limbs; Provision of Orthopedic appliances/footwear; Maternal and Child Health services; Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR); Primary Health Care activities and Outreaches; VCT and PMTCT services including ART; AMREF Flying Doctor service (Dr John Opolot, UPMB Bulletin, November 2005).


BELRA/LEPRA workers associated with this leprosarium:-

Miss M Laing, nurse, 1938-1942 (Awarded the MBE in the 1972 New Year's Honours List for services to anti-leprosy work)
Dr Harold Wheate, doctor, 1947-1953
Mr P Cannell, lay worker, 1949-1950
Mr Dick Boteler, lay worker, 1950-1953
Miss Mary Stone, nurse and matron, 1952-1967 was awarded an MBE
Miss D E Jordan, nurse, 1952-1971
Mr Roland Adnitt, lay worker, 1953-1966
Mr Wally Leach, lay worker, 1953
Dr Maurice Lea, doctor, 1954-1962 (Provided as replacement for Dr Wheate by CMS)
Miss Maisie Owen, nurse, 1954-1955 (Came from Itesio to replace Miss Jordan for home leave)
Mr & Mrs Eric Johnson, lay worker/nurse, 1954-1971 (Came from Mingehe)
Miss Jane Neville, physiotherapist, 1957-1959
Mr P Ellis, lay worker, 1958
Mr B Waters, lay worker, 1963
Mr Roland Huskinson, lay worker, 1967-1977
Mr D Coffin, lay worker, 1972

Information supplied by LEPRA

Photos of Kumi

Entry updated, 15 September, 2006

Leprosaria - Historical References
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