Bola Alonge, head of dentistry division, federal ministry of health, says the ministry is yet to gather accurate data on Noma disease, with predominance in North-West and North-East.
Ms Alonge made this known at the Second Edition of National Noma Day with the theme “Tackling Noma: The Way Forward – Detect Early and Act Quickly”, in Abuja.
She said although mapping was already going on, as regards the disease, it would take much time and a lot of money to have the actual statistics because of the large size of Nigeria.
“We do not have current statistics on Noma but we are working towards that.
“We only have statistics from the hospitals, like Noma Hospital in Sokoto, who have been seeing quite (a) number of Noma cases.
“The statistics was done in some few places and we have started reaching out to some communities and we hope to do more,’’ she said.
Ms Alonge said Noma was associated with poverty because it was associated with diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition and reduced immunity of the child due to inadequate immunisation.
She added that it was also associated with poor oral hygiene and nutrition due to inadequate breast feeding.
“It usually occurs in children below the age of six and it is about 90 per cent fatal. It develops very quickly and kills a victim within two weeks.
“The hospitals attend to survivors of Noma who have already disfigured faces.
“Noma eats up the face, the gum of the teeth, nose and sometimes the nose below the eyes.’’
According to her, Noma starts with a legion in a mouth, little ulcer and very fetid foul smell.
She urged parents and care givers to take children who present these characteristics to the nearest hospital, saying that the ailment is very easy to prevent with good oral hygiene, flagyl and other antibiotics.
She noted that the ailment was virtually everywhere in the country but more predominant in the North-West and North-East of Nigeria.
Gloria Uzoigwe, the national Noma desk officer, federal ministry of health, also said there was no data on Noma in the country.
She added that government, with the support of partners just did a mapping to ascertain the areas where the ailment was high and the result has not come out.
The official said the preliminary result from the consultant engaged by the ministry showed that the ailment was very high in the North-West and North-East regions.
According to her, Noma is predominantly high in the North East due to insurgency and lack of good nutrition.
She said the ailment was not contagious, but added that other ailments such as hepatitis, malaria and some child killer diseases could aggravate the disease.
She said proper oral hygiene and antibiotics could prevent the disease.
Ms Uzoigwe said the ministry, in collaboration with World Health Organisation (WHO) has started the National Noma Control Programme aimed at raising awareness on the disease and train health workers on the disease.
“We are also collaborating with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) who are more into disease surveillance to detect and record new cases of Noma,’’ she said.
She noted that the Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) brings doctors from abroad, visit hinterland in Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and other states to search for Noma victims.
She added that the organisation (Medicines Sans Frontiers) brought the patients to Noma hospital, operate on them, and counselled them and their relatives free of charge.
Adolph Fotso, the medical coordinator, Medicines Sans Frontiers, said the organisation supported the dentistry division of the federal ministry of health to organise the programme towards raising awareness on Noma.
“We are supporting Noma Children Hospital in Sokoto. Our activities (are) not limited to the hospital but also in the outreach,” he said.
He said those who are coming to the hospital are at the late stage of Noma, hence the organisation wants to put more efforts on early detection.
He said the organisation has been in Sokoto since 2014 and has seen over 200 Noma patients in the state.