Report on the Sanitary Condition of Singapore

Report on the Sanitary Condition of Singapore was written by Sir William John Simpson, based on valuable information and input from government officers, municipality officers and medical professionals in the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States. Simpson, a King’s College professor with subject expertise on hygiene, was commissioned to study and report on the sanitary conditions in Singapore by the colonial government.

The report focused on the health and hygiene conditions of Singapore during the early 20th century and began by highlighting that many of the sanitary defects found in Singapore then were the results of aged and pre-existing structural conditions and irrelevant systems. Thereafter, it adopted a multifaceted approach in describing the sanitary conditions in relation to other subject fields, such as topography, architecture and bacteriology, and used images of the living conditions, architectural plans and data on various health and hygiene findings to substantiate the points.

Simpson cited many observations. For example, did you know that despite the damp conditions in Singapore that contributed to the breeding of mosquitoes, not everyone was as prone to being afflicted with malaria and this was due to the location of their living areas? Another case in point was that dysentery arising from water contamination was brought on by the unsanitary condition of latrines being located above cook houses and barrack rooms. These two points are just the tips of the iceberg relating to the sanitary issues Simpson observed. The report also examined and recommended improvements relating to the housing conditions, water, milk and rice supply, the drainage and sewage systems, trade nuisances and quarantine facilities.

All in all, while the Report on the Sanitary Condition of Singapore contains details on the past living conditions which can be alarming to the modern readers, it is nonetheless valuable in helping us to understand the early 20th century living conditions in Singapore.

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