The absence of a policy direction on the control of Noma disease in Nigeria has left many affected by the disease helpless, stakeholders in the Nigeria’s health sector have said.
This is even so as the country of about 195,000,000 people can only boast of one facility dedicated for the management of a disease that has been associated with poverty.
The stakeholders spoke differently at a one day inception workshop on mapping of Noma disease in Nigeria hosted by a non-governmental organization, Oral Health Advocacy Initiative (OHAI).
The workshop was attended by government representatives, medical practitioners, the NGOs/CSOs, the media amongst other stakeholders.
Noma (Cancrum oris) is a gangrene that develops in the mouth and rapidly spreads to other parts of the face. The disease is almost found exclusively in conditions of poverty, poor living conditions, poor hygiene and malnutrition and if not treated leads to death in 70-90 percent cases.
Declaring the workshop opened, Dr. Ver-Or Ngutor, Director, Noma Intervention Programme at OHAI explained that mapping of Noma cases in the country was at identifying the high burden states in Nigeria with core essence of facilitating intervention plan that will help address the emerging challenges of Noma cases.
He said though intervention on the disease has started in Nigeria, progress has been slow as the government particularly and other stakeholders have not given the disease the attention it deserves”.
According to Dr. Ngutor, surgical reconstruction of the deformity is expensive, time-consuming and rarely available or affordable where it is most needed.
Although noma is not well documented, in 1998, the WHO estimated that between 100,000 and 140,000 cases of the disease occur every year in the African Region with a mortality rate of between 70-80 percent.
Dr. Kenneth Iregbu, Consultant Clinical Microbiologist with the National Hospital, Abuja, one of the participants at the workshop is of the view that the government must take up the issue of Noma as a challenge.
“Looking at the devastating nature of the disease, it is something that should take the front burner in health discussions at the community levels. Government needs to bring it up as a challenge and find solutions to it squarely. That is where one will expect the donor agencies/development partners to come in. But that has to be led by the government. Government has to make it a priority and the donor agencies can now identify with the view to helping address the challenge”, Dr. Iregbu maintained.
Speaking in the same vein, another participant, Chidi Nweneka noted that efforts towards the control of Noma in Nigeria has been slow and urged the government to live up to its bidding.
“I expect the government to take up ownership of efforts to control Noma and to do the needful in terms of policy, guidelines, in terms of funding. Nigeria shouldn’t be a beggarly nation like what happens with other diseases where we rely on outsiders to drive the programme. Government should drive this programme and not wait on donors to come and do that”, Nweneka added.
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