The National Orientation Agency (NOA) alongside Nigeria’s Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation, and Medecine Sans Frontiers has decried low level of immunisation coverage on Noma scourge in Nigeria.
The groups who spoke in Abuja, at the commemoration of the 2022 national NOMA day and scientific conference, with the theme, ‘NOMA, A Disease That Should Not Exist Anymore ’. emphasised the need for increased access to Noma vaccination and education among the peoples for the prevention and management of the disease.
The Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Garba Abari, said that the agency had embarked on health enlightenment programme for rural dwellers on the need to address NOMA disease.
Abari, who was represented by its Deputy Director, Public Enlightenment and Mass Mobilisation, Theresa Maduekwe, noted that as part of its effort to draw attention to the scourge of NOMA disease in Nigeria, NOA is the only agency that has the mandate to sensitise Nigerians on the need to end NOMA disease in society.
NOA boss urged religious and community leaders, stakeholders and the media to intensify awareness creation about NOMA to improve the prevention of the disease and the health-seeking behaviour of people with the disease.
In his address, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said that the neglect of Noma is a major humanitarian concern that requires the attention of National and International organisations.
He said: “Noma is an infectious and yet, non- contagious, disease which rapidly eats away the hard and soft tissues as well as the bones of the face and results in the creation of a bizarre craniofacial disfigurement.
“The disease progresses very rapidly and without rapid treatment, the patient’s condition becomes life threatening. Noma leads to death in 90% of the cases and affects children between the ages of 2 and 6 years suffering from malnutrition, extreme poverty and weakened immune system.
“Survivors that make up the remaining 10 percent suffer severe facial disfigurement, have difficulty in speaking, eating and they face social stigma.
Noma is a gangrenous disease affecting young children that rapidly destroys the soft and hard tissues of the face and leads to massive loss of substance with obvious esthetic prejudice and functional sequalae.”
In his remarks, NOMA representative in the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Dr Peter Ajanso, said NOMA immunisation coverage in Nigeria is very low. I can tell you that from our survey, 27% of northern children have received zero vaccine and what that means is that the students have not received even a single vaccine.
“Some states have higher percentage of children who have not received a single dose of vaccination, which is worrying. Vaccination is one of the preventable ways that we can eliminate Noma. So, vaccination should be encourages in community and enlightenment of the disease should be broadcasted.”
Also, Gloria Uzoigwe, the national Noma desk officer, federal ministry of health, also noted that Nigeria now have international surgeons in the country to carryout free surgery,
she said: “We has partner with government to sensitize the community on the vaccination that is safe and it will helps not only for Noma disease but other diseases. The most common sign and symptom is the development of an ulcer in the mucous membrane of the mouth before spreading to other parts of the face.
“If detected early, the condition can be arrested with antibiotics, proper nutrition and oral hygiene while late diagnosis even if treated does not restore disfigured or damaged tissues”.
However, the Country Director, NOMA Aid Nigeria Initiative, Dr Charles Ononiwu, also said that treatment of Noma is completely free at the national hospital Abuja.
He said: “When you bring a patients to Noma center at the national hospital Abuja. Their transportation will be taking care of, their feeding and caregivers will be taken care of. So, they don’t need to worry about money in their pockets for treatment.”