Noma is an easily curable disease but, regrettably, it’s fearfully reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that it may be on the increase in various African countries.
Noma (cancrum oris) is an acute and ravaging gangrenous infection affecting the face. The victims of Noma are mainly children under the age of 6, caught in a vicious circle of extreme poverty and chronic malnutrition. It starts with ulcers in the mouth. If the condition is detected in the early stage, progression can be prevented with the use of mild antibiotics and immediate nutritional rehabilitation. If left untreated, as happens in most cases, the ulcers progress to Noma at an alarming pace. The next stage is extremely painful when the cheeks or lips begin to swell and the victim’s general condition deteriorates. Within a few days, the swelling increases and a blackish furrow appears and the gangrenous process sets in and, after the scab falls away and a gaping hole is left in the face. It is estimated that the mortality rate reaches up to an alarming 90%.
The WHO estimates that 140,000 new cases of Noma occur each year and of these, a mere 10% survive. That means that 126,000 die each year, mainly in sub-Saharan countries from Senegal to Ethiopia, a region known as “the Noma belt”.
Source: The WHO.