WHO declares noma as neglected tropical disease

THE World Health Organization (WHO) has declared noma, an ailment of the mouth and face, a neglected tropical disease (NTD).

According to a statement by the organisation on Friday, December 15, the decision was recommended during the 17th meeting of the strategic and technical advisory group for neglected tropical diseases as part of its dedication towards addressing one of the world’s most unrecognised health challenges.

“Cases of noma are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, although cases have also been reported in the Americas and Asia.

“Evidence indicates that noma is caused by bacteria found in the mouth. There are multiple risk factors associated with this disease, including poor oral hygiene, malnutrition, weakened immune systems, infections, and extreme poverty. Noma isn’t contagious but tends to strike when the body’s defences are down,” WHO disclosed.

More than one billion people are affected by noma globally, according to data from the WHO. NTDs, including noma, are often related to environmental conditions.

Noma is a common disease which often occurs in children. It is mostly associated with malnutrition and has a survival rate of approximately 15 per cent, according to research.



    Although the mortality rate from noma is high, WHO disclosed that early detection and treatment could aid healing without long-term consequences.

    “Children who survive the gangrenous stage of the disease are likely to suffer severe facial disfigurement, have difficulty eating and speaking, face social stigma and isolation, and need reconstructive surgery,” the statement read.

    At the 75th World Health Assembly held in 2022, Nigeria sought the inclusion of noma into the WHO’s NTD list, which comprised 20 conditions at the time.

    Former Minister of Health Osagie Enahire said  at the World Health Assembly that year that  the inclusion of the ailment to the NTDs list would facilitate “global support to the request for its elimination, starting with preventive and curative measures for afflicted persons.”

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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