Noma, the disease that corrodes the face of the most deprived children – Observer

It is known as the 'face of poverty & # 39 ;. Noma is a disease that destroys the children's face in a context of extreme poverty. The term comes from the Greek and means "to devour". It is a destructive necrotizing disease of the mouth and face. Known for more than 1,000 years, it was only in 1994 that the noma was considered a public health problem by the World Health Organization. The entity estimates that, every year, 140 thousand children contract of the disease.

In the beginning, the disease takes the form of a wound in the mouth in the gums, as can be read in the WHO newsletter. The lesion then evolves into a "necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis that spreads rapidly, destroying the soft intra-oral tissues and bones and piercing the hard tissues and skin of the face." Without treatment, the noma is considered one illness in 90% of cases but when it is detected early, it can be stopped quickly (hygienic care and antibiotics are part of the solution).

The disease in question mainly affects children from two to six years who have a poor diet, live in extreme poverty and whose immune system is weak. The most common cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, although rare reports are described in Latin America and Asia. Once affected, patients can die from blood poisoning, but also from severe dehydration and malnutrition. Survivors are confronted with severe mutilation of the face, as well as difficulty in talking and eating. In addition, those who provide the noma, the WHO that guarantees it, run the risk of social exclusion.

The Spanish newspaper El País cites a recent survey on the noma in which a team of Médecins Sans Frontières analyzed a total of 74 cases that the newspaper describes as the world's first dedicated Sokoto hospital in the United States. northwest of Nigeria. The conclusions of the study, published in the PLOS NTD journal, point to what was already suspected at the time: the most important risk factor is misery, with above all a poor and monotonous diet, based on maize potatoes. Colostrum, the first milk that a mother gives her child, can be a repellent against the disease. Researchers admit that they know very little about the disease because patients live in hard-to-reach places.

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