International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Adapted from Wolfgang U Eckart. Medizin and Kolonialimperialismus: Deutschland 1884-1945

    The appearance of leprosy in the protectorate of Cameroon was first medically publicised in the German Empire in 1903. Dr Ziemann, a doctor in the Cameroon administration, argued that leprosy would spread gradually from street-markets in the interior towards the coast.

    Ziemann observed that the tribespeople tended to exclude people with the disease from the community. They were left to settle in the bush, or at least far from the periphery of their own settlements. This provided the opportunity to set up leprosy homes as economically and practically as possible at specific focal points – Duala, Jaunde (Yaounde) and Garua. Meanwhile Ziemann had photographs of people with leprosy circulated to the colonialist for their protection when recruiting workers.

    In Eckart’s estimation, the initial early twentieth century attempts by the colonial administrators in Cameroon were comparatively progressive. The movement to open village settlements to accommodate people with leprosy offered a break from the compulsory isolation approach. This met with success particularly in the Ossidinge district, but this was an exception. Elsewhere administrators complained of the difficulties of the open settlements, and demanded closed, strictly supervised prison-like leprosaria with specialist doctors.