The Federal Government in close collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the Noma Policy Document and National Triennial Action Plan Monday in Abuja to scale up awareness of the Noma disease, its prevention and care.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who launched the policy document at this year’s National Noma Day, sponsored by the Hilfsaktion Noma e.V, with theme: ‘timely recognition averts deformity’, explained that Noma is an infectious disease which is generally associated with people living in extreme poverty.
He explained that the disease evolves from small inflammations of the gum of the teeth and grows rapidly to severely destroy the soft tissue around the mouth, lips and face, creating bizarre and often terrifying orofacial disfigurements. Untreated, the mortality rate can be as high 80 per cent.
According to him, “It is a disease that was once common around the world, but is now seen mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Indian subcontinent. Noma is much more prevalent in communities with low nutrition status, poor personal hygiene and poor environmental sanitation standards.
“The disease typically spreads quickly from and beyond its original location in the gum, to surrounding tissues; therefore, early detection and treatment are critical to preventing progression, especially since it responds relatively well to antibiotic treatment at the initial acute phase”.
He explained that diseases that commonly precede development of Noma includes: measles, malaria, diarrhea and ulcerative gingivitis (infection around the teeth); any of which compromises immunity in a complex interaction between poor oral hygiene, malnutrition and infection.
“Noma occurrence can be reduced and even prevented, first by promoting national awareness of the disease, improving nutrition, including promoting exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a child’s life, education on prenatal care and personal hygiene, timely immunization against common childhood diseases, improving environmental sanitation and poverty reduction. Detecting Noma early and treating it can halt and largely reverse the devastating impacts of the disease.
“According to data from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Noma is found everywhere in Nigeria, predominant in the Northwest.
“We have embarked on a number of national trainings, step down trainings and sensitisation activities in high burden States such as Kebbi. Sokoto, Jigawa and Akwa Ibom, in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency and Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, to increase surveillance, case finding and prompt disease reporting”.
The Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other stakeholders developed the National Noma Policy Document and the Triennial Noma Control Action Plan (2019-2021), which was approved at the National Council on Health in August this year.
The National NOMA Day is commemorated annually to raise awareness to the Nigerian populace on NOMA, to reinforce actions to prevent NOMA and to develop avenues for common actions to eventually eradicate this preventable disease.
The Head of Dentistry Division of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Boladale Alonge, said, “We found out that the awareness for Noma is so low, that is why we created the National Noma Day. In recent years, we have more people coming down with Noma that is why we are raising the awareness, especially in the rural areas”.
The Country Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Clement Peter, reiterated that the WHO is willing to support the FG in all its effort to address, reduce and prevent the prevalence of Noma in the country, especially in the Northwest region.
“Noma should be a disease of the past and not a disease of the current generation; we need to get it out,” he said.