Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Federal Government has raised alarm that Noma disease is silently killing Nigerians, particularly in the northwestern states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa and other states outside the northwest, notably Akwa Ibom.
Noma disease, also known as cancrum oris, is an infectious disease that is associated with people living in extreme poverty. It evolves from small inflammations of the gums and grows rapidly to severely destroy the soft tissue around the mouth, leaving an open, gaping sore exposing the teeth.
The Government says that rising poverty, ignorance and deprivation in Nigeria’s northwestern states are responsible for the high rate of Noma disease in the region and other states.
The Coordinator, National Noma Control Programme, Dr Bola Ige, who spoke at opening ceremony of the Africa regional Noma workshop in Abuja on Monday, disclosed that 90 percent of people that have the disease do not survive, with the remaining 10 percent permanently disfigured.
She disclosed that in spite of fatality of Noma disease, Nigeria has no workable policy to respond to the crisis, neither does it have statistical data on the disease because of paucity of funds and insufficient manpower to carry out a comprehensive national survey.
“We don’t have funds to finance national survey on Noma. However, we have applied for grants and other sponsorships to enable us conduct the survey. For now, we work with figures we receive from public hospitals, particularly the Noma specialist hospital in Sokoto,” she said.
Dr Ige stressed the need for timely recognition of the symptoms of Noma disease which, if attended to properly, could avert death or the permanent deformity of patients.
Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire, in his remarks, expressed optimism that the newly launched Noma Policy Document and the National Triennial Action Plan would go a long way in raising public awareness about Noma disease.
He confirmed that Noma disease can be significantly reduced, or even prevented, if national awareness of the disease, improved nutrition can be promoted.
“We need to promote exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a child’s life, education on pre-natal care and personal hygiene, oral hygiene, timely immunisation against common childhood diseases, improved environmental sanitation and poverty reduction,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials from Colgate, makers of toothpaste products, promised to champion a campaign on oral hygiene targeted at over 15 million children across Nigeria by the end of next year.