Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has embarked on measures to arrest the prevalence of Noma disease whose mortality rate was said to be as high as 80 per cent if untreated.
Noma disease also known as cancrum oris is an infectious opportunistic disease generally associated with people living in extreme poverty.
It evolves from small inflammations of the gum of the teeth (the gingivo) and grows rapidly to severely destroy the soft tissue around the mouth and face, creating bizarre and often terrifying orofacial disfigurements. According to medical experts, Noma disease is preventable but where the disease is untreated, the mortality rate could be as high as 80 per cent.
Speaking yesterday at the formal launch of the National Noma Policy Document and Triennial Noma Control Action (2019-2021) in Abuja, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said there are plans to build a Noma Specialist Hospital at the National Hospital in Abuja, which would undertake among other treatment interventions, plastic and genital surgeries.
He said the Federal Ministry of Health has established the National Noma Control Programme in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), with the aims of creating awareness about Noma, its prevention and care.
Also, Ehanire said the ministry would use the National Noma Day to scale up awareness of the disease, adding that data from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that Noma is found everywhere in Nigeria, but predominantly in the North-west.
He noted that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar, has been enlisted among those to be inaugurated as National Noma Champion and a “Technical Working Group on Noma” would be established to advise federal government on ways of addressing the health challenge.
“We have embarked on a number of national trainings, step-down trainings and sensitisation activities in high-burdened 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,” he said.
Earlier, the Director of Dentistry in the ministry, Mrs. Ajibola Longer, said there’s presently very low awareness about the scourge of the Noma disease in the country, which was being driven mainly by poverty and was mostly found in the rural areas.
She explained that the aim of the workshop was majorly promote awareness among the health stakeholders on the need to work collaboratively to tackle the disease.
Health officials from some African countries and officials of the World Health Organisation and other stakeholders were at the training programme.