The Newsletter 69 Autumn 2014

The campaign against yaws in postcolonial Indonesia: Forgotten disease, incomplete victories

Vivek Neelakantan

In 1950, Prime Minister Abdul Halim’s cabinet identifi ed malaria, tuberculosis, yaws, and leprosy as the ‘Big Four’ endemic diseases [Penjakit Rakjat] that enervated the overall vitality of the country’s population. Unlike leprosy, yaws is a disease that has escaped public consciousness worldwide. Although not fatal, the disease was the leading cause of disability in Indonesia during the 1950s. Indonesia’s anti-yaws campaign, launched in 1950, was the world’s most comprehensive attempt to combat this disease at the time. Yet to date, victory against yaws has remained elusive.