1 February, 2017

Leprosy till 1900

Leprosy in Suriname till 1900.

Leprosy is an infectious disease, which is transmitted by humans. It is not really clear how leprosy in Suriname originated. Possibly taken with slaves from Africa or via Spanish and / or Portuguese settlers via Brazil transferred to Suriname. In 1880, the leprosy bacillus was discovered by Hansen. At that time, and thus during the period of Peter Donders, so little was known about it. But even after discovering the bacillus, one did not know how to infect someone, for example by direct contact or otherwise, like a particular kind of food. However, one already understood that someone should be vulnerable to leprosy. So not everybody who got in contact with lepers had to get infected. One thought it was due to genetic predisposition. There was also a very different thought about the risk of contagion. Large groups of people in Suriname did not see any danger in dealing with leprosy. The history of various leprosy epidemics showed that the disease in a constant population decreases, but in Suriname that was hardly the case at the end of the 18th century. The population changed due to a lot of immigrants (including British-Indian) that entered Suriname during that period. Hence the governors, Crommelin and Wichers, decided to isolate the lepers. They were housed in 1791 on Plantation Voorzorg, a plantation on the Saramacca River at the opposite of the village Groningen, where the Commissioner of the Saramacca district stayed. Physicians, police and educators were required to indicate suspected cases. After a medical check, lepers were isolated at Voorzorg. Voorzorg as a location for lepers had some disadvantages to the government: the arrival of the Boeroes (Dutch immigrants) that occupied the plantatio  Voorzorg, the government offices in Groningen and the lepers were able to escape easily and return to the relatively nearby city of Paramaribo. In 1823, a new location for lepers was opened at Batavia. Beginning January 1, 1831, a new law stating: “Slaves declared by the research commission, commissioned by law, “with the disease of leprosy, known as “lepra or boasi”, will be made available of the government, and obliged to move away to Batavia as soon as possible. “Batavia, from then on, was the area for leprosy. Batavia, which was part of The Cordon Road is far from the outside world on the Coppename River, once it was difficult to flee. But not only slaves were accommodated, also people who were considered free. Strict controls and regular visits of houses seemed to be fruitful. But in Suriname, even nowadays, the saying goes: “Strong rules do not rule long.” So, it quickly slowed down. In 1850 498 lepers lived at Batavia, of whom only 21 were free. Since 1834, the Roman Catholic Diocese owns a plot of land with a churchyard and cemetry at Batavia. At least two clergymen were available daily to lead religious activities. Nevertheless, the lepers under management of the colonial government suffered a lot. Eventually, Monseigneur Wulfing had compassion on them and in December 1890 he offered the colonial government the nursing of the lepers to take over by the Roman Catholic Diocese at a new establishment. The Roman Catholic Diocese decided to buy a plot of land on plantation Groot Chatillon, located at the Surinam River and in 1892 all lepers were transferred to it and herewith Batavia ended as the location for isolation of lepers in Suriname.

Source: Lepra in Suriname by Dr. Th. Lens, 1895