By Deji Abdulwahab
The Minister of Health, Dr Ehanire Osagie, says the Cranio-Facial Centre at the National Hospital, Abuja treats Noma patients at no cost to them.N
Noma is an infectious and yet, non- contagious disease, which rapidly eats away the hard and soft tissues.
According to Osagie, it also eats away the bones of the mouth and ultimately the face and results in the creation of a bizarre disfigurement of the head and face.
Osagie made the disclosure on Tuesday at the commemoration of the 2022 National Noma Day and Scientific Conference in Abuja.
The event was organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) with the theme “Noma, a disease that should not exist anymore’’.
“The disease progresses very rapidly and if not rapidly and properly treated, becomes worse and threatens the life of the patient.
“Noma has a fatality rate of 90 per cent and affects children between the ages of two and six years, who are suffering from malnutrition, extreme poverty and weakened immune system.
“Those who survive will suffer severe facial disfigurement, have difficulty in speaking, eating and face mockery and discrimination,’’ Osagie said.
He lauded the support of Hilfaksion Noma eV, a German NGO with interest in fighting Noma in the country.
“The history of Noma control in Nigeria is not complete without acknowledging the support of Hilfaksion Noma eV, a German NGO with interest in fighting Noma globally.
“They support the National Noma control programme in Nigeria through World Health Organisation (WHO), which is primarily prevention, training and awareness creation.
“They are also further assisting Nigeria by building a 100 bed Noma, Nutrition and Cranio-Facial Centre at the National Hospital, Abuja, where Noma patients will be treated and operated upon at no cost to them,’’ he said.
According to him, the Noma Children’s Hospital in Sokoto is another hospital providing free treatment to Noma patients, recording about 10 new cases every month.
“I shall in that respect single out Medicine San Frontières for commendation of the work they do in sustaining service at the Noma Children’s Hospital Sokoto.
“Noma is preventable and its aggressive progression can be arrested with early diagnosis and treatment,’’ minister said.
According to him, the Federal Ministry of Health is pursuing a number of activities to raise awareness of this disease.
He added that the ministry was training various categories of healthcare workers on early identification, treatment and appropriate referrals of cases from all parts of affected country.
“There has been positive result from these trainings as evidenced in the increasing number of cases being reported from hospitals, unlike previously, when sufferers knew not where to seek treatment.
“There is a paradigm shift also in increasing attention given to oral health, in terms of budgetary allocation, advocacy and promotion and effective delivery of oral health care.
“To this end, the Ministry of Health is collaborating with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to integrate basic oral care in Primary Health services.
“The ministry is also collaborating with NOA to ensure that appropriate messages are disseminated at the grass roots,’’ the minister said.
According to him, the institutionalisation of commemoration of National Noma Day is symbolically powerful as an annual event to help retain awareness of the disease with the populace, which supports prevention and treatment efforts.
He said that Nigerian Dental students were involved in the Noma awareness drive and are organising a one month Boot camp and a nation-wide Noma Campaign to end stigmatisation.
“Video footages are being uploaded online to generate social media awareness and advocacy on zero stigmatisation of persons with Noma, as well as importance of improved knowledge, attitude and practice of good oral hygiene,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the President of Nigerian Dental Association, Dr Tope Adeyemi, called for adequate oral health manpower to eradicate Noma disease in rural areas.
Adeyemi said, “We are faced with the challenge of brain drain and inadequate oral health manpower in rural areas.
“We therefore advocate for the improvement in the welfare of doctors, implementation of the national oral health policy, integration of oral health into PHCs, and provision of low interest loans for dentists to set up practices.
“Furthermore, Nigerian Dental Association advocates the need for multi-sectorial collaboration, using the Sustainable Development Goals strategy to drive efforts in eradication of noma and improvement in the quality of life of individual, families and communities.
“We believe that these efforts and right political will as being displayed by Nigeria, will help in the eradication of Noma which indeed should not exist in this present day and time,’’ he said.
Also, the Director-General of NOA, Dr Garba Abari, said that his agency had trained its officials at the grassroots to create awareness on noma in rural areas and schools.
Abari, who was represented by Mrs Theresa Maduekwe, Deputy Director, Public Enlightenment and Mass Mobilisation, said that good nutrition and personal hygiene were emphasised during the sensitisation campaign.
One of the victim survivor, Oseni Usman, said he experienced stigmatization when he was battling with the disease.
Usman said, “Because of my facial deformity, I could not associate with my colleagues in school. I could not go to the market because of stigmatisation. Before I had no friends but now I have friends.’’ (NAN)