Tackling Leprosy in Colonial Nigeria, 1926–1960
The beginning of systematic leprosy work in Nigeria is to be traced to the formation of a branch of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (BELRA) in the country in 1928. With BELRA providing much technical expertise through the dissemination of the results of medical research, the fieldwork of the programme was carried out by Christian missions on one hand, and on the other, by local administrations on behalf of the government. The missions provided the personnel and logistics while the local administrations offered financial backing. By the beginning of the 1940s, it had become possible to develop a policy framework for leprosy control. The principal strategy for control and eradication was the early diagnosis and treatment of the disease to prevent escalation into the infective stage. Infective patients were segregated through admission into standard leprosaria. Leprosy surveys, therefore, received priority attention for the detection of early infection cases. Through these methods considerable strides were achieved in the reduction of leprosy by the end of the colonial period. This paper examines these developments principally through the utilisation of contemporary sources. The discourse is supplemented by textual secondary material to provide the contextual framework of analysis.