December 03, (THEWILL) – Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors without Borders, has urged Nigerians to prioritise prevention by adhering to good nutrition, oral hygiene, as well as access to healthcare and vaccinations against NOMA disease.
The project coordinator of Medicins Sans Frontieres in Sokoto State, Mr John Canty, gave the advice at the 2023 NOMA Day, to commemorate the disease in Sokoto.
He described the disease as infectious, but non-contagious, saying that infection also destroys the bone and tissue very quickly, while affecting the jaw, lips, cheeks, nose or eyes, depending on where the infection started.
“For those who survive, they are left with severe facial disfigurements, rendering it difficult to eat, speak, see or breathe.
“Survivors are also frequently stigmatised and left to face discrimination and social isolation. Up to 90% of people die of noma in the first two weeks if they don’t receive treatment in time”, he explained.
Speaking further, Mr Canty also said Noma mostly affects children under six years old, while the cause is unknown but risk factors are malnutrition and poor oral hygiene, compounded by co-morbidities such as measles and malaria.
According to him: “Noma is treatable and preventable; it should not exist. If detected and managed during the first weeks of the disease, with basic oral hygiene, antibiotics and wound dressing, a patient can recover from noma within a few weeks.
“However, preventing noma demands knowledge about the disease and its treatment. Moreover, good nutrition, oral hygiene and access to healthcare and vaccinations against childhood diseases are all needed to prevent noma.”
He said that in Northwest Nigeria, it can be very difficult for patients to seek treatment, and risk factors abound. “For people living in isolated, impoverished places, reaching a clinic or a hospital can be impossible.
“People often rely upon traditional remedies in the first instance, but only antibiotics can stop the disease from spreading. Even when people can access a local clinic, they don’t have the money to pay for care or, once there, healthcare workers lack knowledge about noma.
Mr Canty said since 2014 with specialised surgery the MSF has been providing treatment support for specialised care at the Sokoto State Ministry of Health’s noma hospital, one of very few specialised noma hospitals in the world.
Also speaking, the Project Manager of Medicins Sans Frontieres, Mr Samuel Joseph, in his presentation, said no fewer than 243 major and minor surgeries were conducted between January to October, 2023.
On his part, the State Governor, Ahmad Aliyu Sokoto, who was represented by his deputy, Engr. Idris Mohammed Gobir, said this can clearly be seen from the allocation of fifteen percent for the sub-sector in this year’s Budget by the current administration.
According to him, this is the highest percentage ever allocated to the sector. The governor said Government is fully aware that Sokoto is among the states with high cases of malnutrition assuring that is poised to change the narrative
He, however, thanked the Medicins Sans Frontieres and other development partners for their continued support in malnutrition treatment across the state.
Highlights of the event include a presentation on the disease, testimonies from the survivors and cutting of the cake to celebrate with NOMA’ survivors.
About the Author
Tunde Omolehin is an award-winning Journalist with prose in investigative and storytelling that is connecting the dots between the under-reported communities and policymakers to ensure good governance and accountability.