Nigeria reiterates commitment to tackling noma disease

Asokoro district hospital

The federal government has reiterated its commitment to tackling Noma disease and has given hope to children born with the disease in the country.

Noma is a gangrenous and disfiguring infection that eats away the facial tissue leading to pain, discomfort and discrimination.

Despite being preventable and treatable, a large number of noma patients die due of low awareness and lack of access to healthcare.

The permanent secretary of the ministry of health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, at the second edition of the National Noma day in Abuja on Monday stressed the government’s readiness towards tackling Noma in the country.

Mr Abdullahi, while urging state governments to implement new ways of reducing the disease, said the federal government is also intensifying efforts to eradicating Noma disease in rural communities.

He said the government is also engaging in more awareness and sensitisation campaign that will educate the citizens.

“Good nutrition,both in terms of quality and quantity, helps in curtailing the disease. Poor nutrition and bad eating habits are risk factors of the disease. Treatment of bleeding of gums will also curtail the sickness”

He harped on the need for more synergy in tackling the huge health and social challenge in developing countries.

“We will collaborate with West Africa Health organisation (WAHO) in ensuring that the risk of developing the disease is reduced drastically.”

The WHO officer in charge of Nigeria, who was represented by Rex Mpawanzage, noted that the agency’s strategy is based on early detection and immediate care and treatment of patients.

He noted that without treatment, the patients will die, and the few survival will have facial distortion and absolute stigma.

“We are creating referral centres for patients after detection, and giving them the necessary support to correct the ailment. We are promoting control programs where the disease is prevalent.”

The Nigeria Head of Mission Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland, Phillip Aruna, also reiterated the need to improve on surveillance of the disease at the community level.

He said the organisation in collaboration, with the ministry of health, has been running a programme dedicated to the treatment of noma in Sokoto Children’s Hospital.

Mr Aruna said the programme focuses on community outreach, active case finding in the region, health promotion, psychosocial and nutritional support (for the patient and their families), health care and physiotherapy.

“Patients come from all over Nigeria for treatment, with the big majority from Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States. Four times per year, MSF sends high-profile plastic and maxillofacial surgeons, nurses and anaesthesiologists to work together with Nigerian specialists on performing reconstructive surgeries on noma patients,” he said.

Noma is one of the tropical neglected diseases. It mostly affects vulnerable children in the poorest and most remote communities.

The development of noma is associated with malnutrition, often in combination with other infections such as measles and malaria, poor sanitation, poor oral health and limited access to health care.

“Noma is a disease that affects the poor; hence we need collaborative efforts by all stakeholders to reduce the burden. It normally affects children within the age range of two to six years,” Mr Aruna said.

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Ayodamola Owoseye is a senior reporter covering the health beat for PREMIUM TIMES.  She is a graduate of the University of Ibadan, and holds a B.A in Anthropology and M.Sc in Information Science.

Ayodamola advocates gender equity and loves travelling and listening to old skool music. Twitter: @damolaowoseye

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