The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) has joined partners and representatives from Niger Republic, Benin, Madagascar and others to launch the National Noma Control Policy document approved at the 2019 National Council on Health.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Monday, commemorated the third edition of the National Noma Day with launch of the document.
The National Noma Day is held annually to raise awareness on the non-contagious disease that affects tissues of the face and cause deformities.
Nigeria marked the day on November 20 since 2017, as measure adopted to eliminate the disease.
Noma, otherwise known as Cancrum Oris, is a fulminating, gangrenous infection of the soft tissue around the mouth, predominantly affecting younger persons with poor oral hygiene and predisposing them to serious illness.
The theme for 2019 is ‘Timely Recognition Averts Deformities’.
Ehanire said that the ministry worked in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other stakeholders to develop the National Noma Policy Document and the Triennial Noma Control Action Plan (2019-2021).
He said it was approved at the National Council on Health in August 2019.
He defined Noma as an infectious, opportunistic disease which affects people living in extreme poverty and more prominent in communities with poor nutrition and hygiene.
The minister advised that early detection and treatment were critical in halting progression of Noma, noting, however, that “the disease generally responds to antibiotics treatment.”
According to him, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says Noma disease can be found anywhere in Nigeria but more prevalent in the North-West region.
He disclosed that the Federal Government embarked on sensitisation activities in high prone states of Kebbi, Jigawa and Sokoto to raise awareness on the disease.
Mr Philip Aruna of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)- Holland, said that the aim was to create awareness for Noma disease and make sure it was prevented in the country.
According to Aruna, timely identification, treatment and follow-up are critical in the management of Noma disease.
Dr Clement Peter, WHO Officer In Charge, said that Noma should be a disease of the past, not the current generation.
Peter added that Noma disease had disappeared from the developed world but remained in Sub Saharan Africa for reasons related to poor sanitation, malnutrition and others.
The Director General, NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that Nigeria could not raise awareness on public health challenges without strong surveillance system.
Chikwe disclosed that NCDC had included Noma disease in the case based surveillance system in the country.
He added that NCDC would want to start reporting on the progress not just the problems in the country.
Prof. Abdulrazaq Habib of Noma Technical Working Group, said that the disease was associated with deformities and deaths.
Habib said it was mainly a result of weak health system.
According to data by WHO,over 500,000 people are affected and 140,000 new cases are reported each year across the world, while mortality rate is approximately 90 per cent.
An official statement by the ministry in 2018 noted that Noma was mostly found among children below the age of six and predominantly high in the North East
due to insurgency and the lack of good nutrition.
The statement indicated that “though the disease is not contagious, other ailments such as hepatitis, malaria and some childhood killer diseases can aggravate it.”