Noma recognised as neglected tropical disease

The disease, noma, has been named officially a neglected tropical disease, it has been announced.

The disease, also known as gangrenous stomatitis, mainly affects malnourished infants and can destroy facial tissues and bones and is frequently fatal.

The World Health Organization said it was hard to estimate how many children are affected. The disease is mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa.

In its early stages, the disease causes acute necrotising gingivitis and WHO says that early detection and treatment at this stage is essential.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Noma is more than a disease, it is a social marker of extreme poverty and malnutrition, affecting the most vulnerable populations.

“By classifying noma as a neglected tropical disease, we are shining a light on a condition that has afflicted marginalized communities for centuries. We are committed to working with affected countries and communities to address the drivers of noma and alleviate the suffering it causes.”

The decision was welcomed by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontières.

The charity has treated 837 patients in a specialist hospital in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria, since 2014, undertaking 1,203 operations.

It says it will now include screening for the disease in its programmes in affected countries.

MSF health programmes manager Mark Sherlock said: “We welcome the WHO director-general’s decision, which confirms what MSF and the medical community have insisted on for years: that noma is a neglected tropical disease and deserves all the attention and resources that this implies.

“We hope that this decision will shine a spotlight on the disease, facilitating the integration of noma prevention and treatment activities into existing public health programmes, and encouraging the allocation of much-needed resources to help tackle the disease.”

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