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Nigeria working to eliminate noma disease

Nigeria commemorated the second edition of the National Noma Day with an aim of creating awareness on early detection of the killer disease and how to act quickly in preventing its spread.
National Noma Day, marked across the country on Nov. 20 since last year, is one of the measures adopted by the government to eliminate the disease.
Noma, otherwise known as Cancrum Oris, is a fulminating, gangrenous infection of the soft tissue around the mouth, predominantly affecting malnourished, younger persons with poor oral hygiene.
The Nigerian government is working with international partners to tackle and fully eliminate the noma disease which is fast spreading in the country and the West African sub-region.
Minister of state for health Osagie Ehanire said the government and its partners including the World Health Organization (WHO) and Medecins Sans Frontieres had, among other measures, embarked on the sensitization of local citizens on how to prevent the noma disease.
Speaking at a national event organized in commemoration of the National Noma Day in the capital city of Abuja, Ehanire said Nigeria had started making progress in the fight against noma after the most populous African country adopted WHO’s strategy to fight the scourge.
The WHO strategy includes prevention and early detection, immediate care, informing and educating the public
Epidemiological data on noma is still scarce, but a current estimate of the global incidence is some 30,000 to 40,000 cases per year, according to data by the Nigerian government.
Although it is common in the country’s northwest and northeast regions, local people have little education about the noma disease.
Noma starts with a lesion in a mouth, little ulcer, and very fetid foul smell. It then eats up the face, the gum of the teeth, nose and sometimes the nose below the eyes.
In Nigeria, it is a scourge on communities with poor environmental sanitation and hygiene practices, occurring as a result of a complex, not yet fully understood interactions between poor nutrition, infection, and immunodeficiency.
This little-known disease is associated with high morbidity and mortality. It also mainly affects children under the age of twelve. It is not uncommon in some of the poorest countries of Africa and has also affected children in South America and Asia.
There is only one dedicated noma hospital in Nigeria. The government-run Noma Children Hospital in the northwestern state of Sokoto is staffed by local residents and visiting medical teams.
The lone noma hospital attends to survivors of the disease who have already disfigured faces.
Common diseases like malaria, measles, severe diarrhea and particularly, necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, commonly precede the development of noma.
“In the acute stage, it can be managed relatively easily by administering antibiotics, which may prevent or limit the extent of gangrene. However, noma can be prevented by a combination of common measures like creating more national awareness of the disease, reducing poverty, improving hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition,” Ehanire said.
Over 500,000 people are affected and 140,000 new cases are reported each year across the world, according to data by WHO. The mortality rate is approximately 90 percent.
An official statement by the Nigerian government said noma is mostly found among children below the age of six and predominantly high in the northeast due to insurgency and lack of good nutrition.
The statement noted though the disease is not contagious, other ailments such as hepatitis, malaria and some childhood killer diseases could aggravate it.
Proper oral hygiene and antibiotics could prevent the disease, the statement added.
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