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Malnutrition brings Noma disease to poor Niger kids

4 July 2015 14:29




Severe malnutrition in Niger continues paving the way for Noma disease to claim more victims among poverty-stricken children, most of whom feel socially outcast as they see the polymicrobial infection eating away their faces.

Noma, which thrives on malnutrition, is a ravaging gangrenous infection affecting the face. The victims are mainly children under the age of 6 who suffer from hunger and poverty.

“The problem is that this is a very fast-acting disease,” said nurse Fati Badamasi, with the Switzeland-based charity group Sentinelles operating in Niger, adding, “The necrosis takes hold in 72 hours. If the patient comes to us with a blackish patch (on the face) it’s already too late.”

Sentinelles highlights the case of Mourdja, a girl who had her face ravaged by the infection, which began by making her inflamed gums bleed. Just three days later, rapid tissue damage stole her beauty — along with her childhood.

“Noma is caused by malnutrition and a lack of hygiene. It is a disease born of poverty. Well, in Niger there is plenty of poverty,” Badamasi added.

Ali Adah, who oversees the Sentinelles’ work in Niger, said noma “smells of decay, like a corpse.”

“When I come to the office and we have a new case, I smell it straight away,” he said.

A child with Noma disease cries in May 26, 2015 in the health center of the NGO Sentinelles in Zinder, southern Niger. AFP photo


Niger is prone to food crises. The country holds the lowest place on the comprehensive Human Development Index drawn up each year by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

According to the UN, malnutrition in Niger is largely caused by the absence of essential nutrients for children, weakening the immune system against ordinary childhood illnesses.

Between 4,000 and 6,000 infants die of malnutrition each year in the country, the UN announced earlier this year.

Many African and South American nations are grappling with a significant number of infection cases, but Niger accounts for a large part of the 140,000 to 180,000 victims every year worldwide, according to the UN World Health Organization.

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