Mothers in Africa have one more thing to worry about in addition to all the usual things all moms are concerned with. Children between the ages 2 and 12, if malnourished, are susceptible to noma – a gangrenous disease leading to tissue destruction of the face, especially the mouth and cheek.
It starts as a sore or lesion in the mouth. If it is not treated within a few days it results in the necrosis of the tissue in the face and bone. The necrotic damage is irreversible. Only 20% of the children live though and are then left with large disfiguring holes in their faces and enough damage to prevent normal jaw movement, feeding and breathing.
If it is treated quickly with antibiotics, vitamins and disinfecting mouthwash victims of the horrible disease can be cured and live normal lives.
Like obstetric fistulas, noma was common around the world until improvements in hygiene and nutrition became possible. It is still found in poor countries in Africa and also in Asia and South America – in fact around 100,000 to 140,000 children get it each year.
Noma is yet another example of the huge disparities between the developed and developing world. On one hand we have wealthy societies with many people ingesting too much food and calories resulting in heart disease, diabetes, etc. – and then there’s the poorest of the poor who cannot get enough nutrition to save them from a disfiguring and often deadly disease like noma.
What is the face of noma? The face of noma is no more than a reflection of the disparities between the rich and the poor.
More information about noma can be found at the following web sites:
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