By Mustapha Yauri
Nigeria is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other stakeholder to tackle the menace of Noma, a gangrene affecting the face, usually caused by bacterial infection.
The disease typically occur in young children who are suffering from malnutrition or other diseases.
Nigeria has only one Noma hospital which is located in Sokoto state and the facilities are overstreched, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said at an event to commemorate the 2018 National Noma Day.
Ehanire said elimination of Noma in Nigeria, and by extension the West African sub-region, is a task for all stakeholders.
He added that ministry would involve the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), dental professionals and other healthcare providers in respect of surveillance, management and rehabilitation of the affected people.
The minister said the ministry was also working with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in respect of health promotion and awareness creation on Noma in the country.
Ehanire said prevention and early detection of this devastating disease, like of many other disease conditions in Nigeria, were given high priority, to reduce incidence and improve the chances of those who contract.
The minister noted that the second commemoration of the National Noma Day which was aimed at raising awareness of Noma in Nigeria was done in collaboration with Medecines Sans Frontiers and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Noma, otherwise known as Cancrum Oris, is a fulminating, gangrenous infection of soft tissue around the mouth, predominantly affecting younger persons with poor oral hygiene and predisposing serious illness.
“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.
“It has a mortality rate of approximately 85 per cent and a disease burden estimated to cost anywhere between one and 10 million disability-adjusted life years,’’ he said.
Ehanire said Noma was a scourge of communities with poor environmental sanitation and hygiene practices, occurring as a result of a complex, not fully yet understood interaction between poor nutrition, infection and immunodeficiency.
He added that common diseases like malaria, measles, severe diarrhoea and particularly, necrotising 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.
“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,’’ he said.
The representative of WHO Nigeria, Dr Clement Peter, said the Regional Noma Control Programme was re-launched in 2010 to support countries with Noma within the African region.
He added that Hilfsaktion Noma e.V has been supporting the WHO Regional programme since 2013, adding Nigeria joined the regional programme in 2016, bringing the number of countries being supported to 10.
He said the WHO’s strategy to fight against Noma is based on a 5-prong strategy, including prevention and early detection, immediate care, informing and educating the public.
Others are epidemiological data collection and the creation of a referral centre for treating its after effects.
He said WHO has been supporting the ministry in its fight against Noma in Nigeria.
According to him, some of the support include the development of a triennial action plan for Noma, supported the maiden edition of the first No Noma day.
Other supports are stakeholder meetings, supported the national training of trainers for healthcare workers/social actors and produced training manuals, and IEC materials to improve early diagnosis and management of Noma cases at primary healthcare level.
Peter said integration of Noma activities into other key programmes such maternal and child health, vaccination, nutrition, Neglected Tropical Diseases within the Ministry of Health were also critical to controlling this scourge. (NAN)