Nigeria commemorates third Noma Day – resolves to eliminate disease by 2030

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Abuja, 20 November 2019 - Nigeria has marked its third National Noma Day with a strong commitment to eliminate the debilitating disease by 2030.

The theme for this year’s event, marked on 18 November, was: “Timely recognition averts deformity – raise awareness to prevent noma” and the Nigerian government indicated commitment towards raising awareness on the disease and fully eliminating it from the country.

“The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) is currently targeting four states that have a particularly high burden of the disease – Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa and Akwa Ibom states – in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to build capacity, increase surveillance, sensitize communities and facilitate prompt reporting of the disease,” Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire disclosed at the event.

He also used to occasion to officially launch the National Noma Policy Document and the Triennial Noma Control Action Plan (2019 – 2021), developed with the support of WHO and approved by the National Council on Health in August 2019.

He appreciated the Sultan of Sokoto, Sultan Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar for accepting to be the champion for noma in Nigeria.

Noma is a necrotizing – or flesh-eating – disease that destroys the mouth and the face. It mostly affects young children between the ages of 2 and 6 years living in extreme poverty. In the absence of any form of treatment, noma is fatal in as many as 90% of cases. However, where noma is detected early, its progression can be rapidly halted, either through basic hygiene rules or with antibiotics. Noma is one of 17 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) slated for elimination by 2030 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

At the event, WHO’s Officer in Charge (OiC), Dr Peter Clement, commended Hilfsaktion Noma, an aid organization, for supporting Nigeria since 2013 to fight the disease through a five-pronged strategy. The programme covers: prevention and early detection; provision of immediate care; informing and educating the public; the collection of epidemiological data; and the creation of a referral center for treating the disease’s after-effects.

The OiC pledged WHO’s continued support for implementing the triannual plan.

Noma is found across Nigeria but is more prevalent in the country’s north-west, according to NCDC. Survivors suffer from severe facial disfigurement, have difficulty speaking and eating, and encounter social stigma.

Although the key risk element for noma is poverty, several other factors contribute to the onset of the disease including lack of hygiene – particularly oral hygiene; malnutrition which lowers immune defenses; and people who have previously suffered from other diseases such as measles, malaria and HIV/AIDS which also weaken the immune system.

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