A group of leprosy children on the seesaw. This photo was taken in the 1930s.

A group of leprosy children on the seesaw. This photo was taken in the 1930s.


History of the Sungai Buloh Settlement

View of the Sungai Buloh Settlement. SOURCE-League of Nations Archives-UNOG Library.The Sungai Buloh Settlement was established for a reason. In the 1920s, many leprosy patients were isolated from society at a leprosarium in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. The leprosarium was like hell on earth. Life was dull, and many of the patients there wanted to run away. Those who were unable to flee could only rely on government-supplied opium to numb their pain. In 1922, Dr. E. A.O. Travers who was working as a high-ranking health official at the Setapak leprosy asylum saw the terrible conditions the leprosy patients were living in. He then proposed to the British government that a fully-equipped and more humane leprosarium be built at Sungai Buloh. Thus, in 1930, the Sungai Buloh Settlement was officially opened. It catered specifically for those suffering from leprosy, which at that time was considered an incurable disease.

Dr. Curry, The Scots, M.O. in charge of the colony looks over a portion of the colony from the hill. The Sungai Buloh Settlement is the second largest leprosarium in the world. The settlement is situated 25.6 km from Kuala Lumpur. It was officially opened on 16th August, 1930. The transfer of non-opium smoking patients from the Leper Asylum in Kuala Lumpur (off Circular Road) to Sungai Buloh Settlement was completed on 25th August, 1930. Administration of the Leper Settlement and Decrepit Settlement was in the charge of the one and same Medical Superintendent.

In 1934, due to increased patients in the Leper Settlement, the Decrepit Settlement was taken over by transferring the 500 decrepit resident to hospitals and homes in Kampar, Tampin, Serendah, Kajang and Taiping. In the same year, Malay patients from Pulau Pangkor were transferred to the Sungai Buloh Settlement. In 1937, the Central Section was built to accommodate more patients.

The Sungai Buloh Settlement sits in a fertile, lush valley with panoramic scenery and has streams running through it. It is well-suited for rehabilitation purposes, and thus became a fine place for leprosy patients to seek medical treatment. The minute a leprosy patient stepped foot into it, he felt hope that one day he would be fully cured of the disease and be able to return to society. So, they called this place "Valley of Hope".

In 1969, it was officially designated the National Leprosy Control Centre and the National Leprosy Control Programme was launched by the Ministry of Health. The Sungai Buloh Settlement no longer admitted new leprosy cases unless the doctor there felt that the patient's illness was serious enough to warrant admission. Otherwise, medication was prescribed and the patient could go home. For treatment follow-ups, the patients were given a choice of either going to Sungai Buloh or to the clinic nearest to their home. By that time, the government had already set up such clinics all over Malaysia for this purpose.