FG Affirms Commitment to Tackling Noma Disease in Nigeria


ABUJA – (Federal Ministry of Health Report) – The Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire (Dr) has reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to reducing the cases of Noma disease in Nigeria. Ehanire gave this assurance during the opening ceremony of the 2nd Edition of the National Noma Day and workshop in Abuja recently.

The Minister of State for Health disclosed that ‘Noma’, otherwise known as Cancrum Oris is a fulminating infection of the soft tissue around the mouth, predominantly affecting younger persons with poor oral hygiene and predisposing serious illnesses. He further explained that the epidemiological data on Noma is still scarce, but a current estimate of the global incidence has been approximated to be about 30,00 – 40,000 cases per year with a mortality rate of presumably 85%. He indicated that its disease burden has been estimated to cost between 1 & 10 Million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs).”

According to him, ‘Noma’ is the scourge of communities with poor environmental sanitation and hygiene practices, occurring as a result of a complex, not fully understood interaction between poor nutrition, infection and immunodeficiency. He pointed out that common diseases like malaria, measles, severe diarrhoea and particularly necrotising ulcerative gingivitis commonly precede the development of Noma.

“It could be managed relatively easily by administering antibiotics which would prevent or limit the extent of gangrene. Prevention and early detection of this devastating disease would be given high priority toward reducing the incidence and improving the chances of those who contact the disease,” Ehanire stated.

“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, promoting exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life, improving prenatal care, vaccination against common childhood diseases and above all, early detection and treatment of ulcerative gingivitis and stomatitis.”

Ehanire lauded the efforts of developmental partners like the World Health Organisation African Region (WHO – Afro), Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF-H), Hilfsaktion Noma and others for developing some of the best strategies towards tackling Noma scourge in Nigeria.

In his welcome address at the event, the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Abdulazizi Abdullahi said that the awareness on oral disease, especially Noma was low among the rural dwellers in Nigeria. Adding, this has led the Federal Ministry of Health to institutionalize the National Noma Day to be celebrated annually, so as to bring together various stakeholders towards increased awareness on this devastating disease in Nigeria.

While delivering his remarks, the Nigerian Head of Mission for Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland, Phillip Aruna informed that the organisation in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health has been running a programme dedicated to the treatment of Noma in the Sokoto Children’s Hospital.

“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 insisted.

Also speaking, the WHO Officer in Charge of Nigeria, who was represented by Alex Mpazange (Dr) noted that for effective control of Noma, it requires a multi-sectoral approach. He urged other key government sectors, partners, foundations and individuals to join effort towards controlling the disease.