Press Release

“Noma, a disease that should not exist anymore”

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Online conference on Thursday, 11 February

Abuja, Nigeria, Monday 8 February 2021 – Medecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in partnership with the International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ISNTD) and other organizations is holding an online conference “Noma, a disease that should not exist anymore” to open a discussion about the neglected disease noma, and expand the network of people advocating for attention to this disease.

Up to 90 per cent 1of people affected by noma die in the first two weeks if they don’t receive treatment with antibiotics in time. Those who survive are left with severe disfigurements, making it hard to eat, speak, see or breathe – this can only be addressed through extensive reconstructive surgery.

The conference will be held on Thursday, 11 February. Speakers include the Nigerian Minister of Health, the Principal member of the “Noma Project” who first identified noma in Laos, the Head of National Noma Programme in Burkina Faso, and the technical officer of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, and the International President of MSF. A documentary about the life and experience of noma patients in Nigeria, will also be screened.

Noma, a neglected disease

“Noma should be a disease of the past! The infection that causes it is easy to treat with antibiotics, yet it continues to kill and cause unbearable suffering. Despite fitting all the criteria, noma is not even officially recognised as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) by the WHO. MSF brings it voice with other renowned speakers in this conference to advocate for more attention and resources for noma, starting with its inclusion in the NTD list” said Froukje Pelsma, Head of MSF Nigeria Mission

Noma mostly affects children under the age of seven living in poverty. It starts with an infection that causes inflammation to the gums and can easily be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, however, it rapidly spreads and in just a few days it eats away at face tissues and bones. Survivors also often face stigma.

“Currently, MSF witnesses the majority of noma cases through its projects in north-west Nigeria. Conditions there are a testament to noma being a disease of privation. We treat survivors who are left with severe disfigurements through extensive reconstructive surgery. However, more resources for detection and early treatment are needed” said Dr. Bukola Oluyide MSF Nigeria Deputy Medical Coordinator.

“As a survivor, living with the sequela of noma is hard. Nobody wants to associate with you, nobody wants to talk to you, because of discrimination and stigma. But there is a way out: surgery brings a chance to heal. My goal is to inspire people. I want to share my story, so that everyone knows that noma is real and that there is ability in disability.” said Mulikat, MSF worker and noma survivor

MSF has been supporting the Sokoto Noma Hospital since 2014, in northwest Nigeria. The programme, run in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, provides surgeries as well as working on health promotion, mental health and nutritional support. From August 2015 to October 2020, 789 surgeries were performed for 550 noma patients.

— To register for the open -access conference visit:

For more information about noma visit:

MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides assistance to population in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict, irrespective of race, religion, creed or political affiliation.

MSF has been working continuously in Nigeria since 1996, responding to disease outbreaks and emergency health needs across Nigeria, including as a result of violence and mass displacement. Currently, MSF works in seven states Borno, Jigawa, Zamfara, Sokoto, Benue, Ebonyi and Rivers, providing primary and emergency healthcare, maternal and paediatric care, vaccinations, major surgical interventions, mental healthcare care for noma, lead poisoning, Lassa Fever as well as water and sanitation services and emergency relief and shelters, COVID-19 care and health promotion.

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