The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders says a team of expert surgeons is expected to begin work on noma patients in Sokoto State, Northwest Nigeria to help correct the facial deformities suffered by the patients.
Cancrum oris or noma is a fatal infection of the mouth that mostly affects children between the ages of 1 and 16, with a peak incidence at ages 1 to 4. It destroys soft tissues and bones of the oral and paraoral structures.
The surgeries which began on Tuesday, March 2 at the Sokoto Noma Hospital was organised by the state’s ministry of health with support from MSF are expected to run till the middle of the month, with 19 planned surgeries.
Between Aug. 2015 and Oct. 2020, the organisation and the health ministry performed 789 surgeries on 550 patients, with 323 treated from acute noma in Sokoto.
The noma disease is caused by malnutrition, bad oral hygiene and lack of vaccinations, causing serious facial disfigurement. While it can be easily treated by antibiotics, it can also advance rapidly without treatment, with 90 per cent of deaths in those infected within a 14-day period.
Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, surgeries for noma patients were carried out four times a year over the past six years. Travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 forced the surgeries to be cancelled in Feb. 2020.
According to MSF, the latest round of surgeries would be carried out by a team of all Nigerian surgeons.
“Previously, Nigerian surgeons worked side by side with the international team. We are very pleased to have reached this milestone of having surgical interventions led fully by Nigerian surgeons,” Charity Kamau, the MSF project coordinator said.
“Not only does surgery restore the functionality of a patient’s mouth and nose, but it also reduces the stigma that patients suffer from and helps them carry on with their lives,” Dr Bukola Oluyide, MSF deputy medical coordinator added.
Noma remains a relatively unknown disease due to the lack of awareness, meaning many patients still go without the required medical attention.
The organisation called for an increase in resources to enable effective surveillance, early detection and prevention of noma.
MSF has been on the ground supporting Sokoto Noma Hospital since 2014 in partnership with the ministry of health providing health promotion activities, mental healthcare and nutritional support asides from surgery.
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