News|Reforming oral health policies to curb noma


Reforming oral health policies to curb noma

In a landmark decision in December 2023, the World Health Organisation designated noma as a neglected tropical disease,

revealing a disease that often lurks in the shadows of impoverished communities in sub-Saharan Africa,

Latin America and Asia.Noma is a serious and rapidly progressing disease of the mouth and face that primarily affects children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old,

who suffer from malnutrition, infectious diseases, or live in extreme poverty, with poor oral health, or with weakened immune systems such as HIV

and other diseases that can lead to death from complications such as sepsis.

in 2012, the united nations Human rights council acknowledged that ignoring the effects of noma could constitute a violation of children’s fundamental rights.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria and globally, noma has received little attention compared to other diseases.

This lack of attention translates into challenges in accurately estimating the burden of noma, with some cases going undiagnosed,

untreated and unreported due to the nature of the disease, the high case fatality rate, t

he weak health systems including surveillance, the associated stigma and the lack of awareness among healthcare workers

and caregivers, and the limited access to healthcare.

It is estimated that there are between 4.1 and 17.9 cases of the disease per 1,000 children between the ages of 1 and 16 years in Nigeria,

with the majority of cases occurring in the north-west and north-east regions,

which have one of the highest numbers of reported cases globally.

Those children who survive often experience significant aesthetic and functional challenges,

such as disfigurement and difficulties with breathing, swallowing,

speaking and vision. These problems can lead to social isolation, stigma, discrimination and, ultimately, human rights violations.


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