Nigeria Working to Eradicate Noma Disease – Pate

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Ali Pate, on Wednesday restated the Federal Government’s commitment to eradicate Noma disease affecting children from two to five years.

Pate said this at commemoration of the 2023 National NOMA Day and Scientific Conference in Abuja.

The theme of the event was titled “Noma Control: The Panacea of Lasting Solution”, with sub-theme “Building Expertise, the Key to Eliminating Noma.”

Noma is an infectious yet noncontagious disease, which rapidly eats away the soft and hard tissues, as well as ones of the face, resulting in the creation of bizarre craniofacial disfigurement.

It is a rapidly progressing infection with devastating impact on those affected and is present in locations particularly where extreme poverty is rife.

According to the minister, the Federal Government has not rested on its oars, until this disease is totally eliminated from the country.

The Minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs. Daju Kachillom, said a number of actions had been taken by Nigerian government to control the disease.

According to him, observing the ‘Noma’ day is a veritable platform the government uses to raise awareness about the disease.

He added that the awareness would help in active identification and treatment of those already affected, map and collaboration with implementing partners to strengthen control.

“Noma is known to affect vulnerable populations living in poverty and in remote areas of the country who do not have necessary amenities of life.

“They are plagued with conditions that lower the victims immunity, leading to severe morbidity and mortality in the populations.

“Most cases of Noma occur in children between the ages of two to five years, Other risk factors include chronic or acute malnutrition, lack of access to healthcare, as well as poor oral hygiene.

“If left untreated, Noma is associated with a 90 per cent mortality rate within weeks. Its survivors are confronted with societal stigmatisation, discrimination and social isolation,” he said.

The Minster said that in tandem with the global drive with Sustainable Development Goals, Noma should not exist as a disease.

He added that its prevalence was an indicator for urgent action to be taken in the quest for accelerated implementation of the SDG 111 and ensuring the realisation of Universal Health Coverage.

“The National Noma control programme has been established mainly as a preventive measure of raising awareness about the disease.

“Training of healthcare workers, surveillance officers, community mobilisation officers, traditional rulers on early detection, treatment referral of cases and proper date collection.

“The Federal Government has also established the National NOMA Technical working group, consisting of specialists in different areas, who advise the ministry on the best way to combat the disease.

“This edifice we are commissioning today will be housing Noma patients and their caregivers. Noma patients undergo series and different stages of surgeries before their face is restored,” he added.

He said the ministry would help in the promotion of the programme and new discoveries that would lead to the control of the disease, adding that finding the course of the disease was very vital.

In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director, National Hospital Abuja, Dr Muhammad Raji, commended the Ministry of Health for its efforts to eliminate Noma in the country.

According to him, the Noma center commissioning today is the 7th of its kind, which is a major milestone as we continue to advance in the eradication of the disease.

“Noma is associated with pain, tremendous suffering, it is a battle we must win and establishing the center is a great achievement.

“This center serves as a great hope for those suffering from the disease. To our partners, we assure you that our team will do their best and NHA is committed to eliminate Noma,” he said.

Also, Dr Mary Dawa, World Health Organisation representative, commended the Minister of Health for his effort to tackle Noma in the country.

Dawa said that such a move would further spotlight Noma, in order to receive the required attention, it deserves.

“The theme of today is very apt, as tackling Noma requires a government and society approach to proffer a lasting solution.

Dr Tope Adeyemi, President, called for effective collaboration among stakeholders to assist victims of Noma disease, adding that such would help in the control of the disease.

Present at the event were Royal fathers, representatives of National Orientation Agency, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, World Health Organisation, WHO, among others.