The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has inaugurated a National Noma Technical Working Committee (TWC) on the prevention, control and policy implementation of the disease.

Speaking at the inauguration in Sokoto on Friday, Adewole said Noma is an acute devastating oral-facial gangrene that occurs mainly in children.

Adewole, represented by Dr Joseph Amedu, said the disease destroys the soft and hard tissues of the oral and para-oral structures leaving survivors with facial mutilation, impaired growth of facial skeleton and nasal regurgitation of food.

Other manifestations of the disease according to him are leakage of saliva, defective speech and chewing difficulties.

The Minister said poverty is the most important risk factor for Noma which mostly strives in chronic malnutrition, poor environmental sanitation and oral hygiene.

He said unsafe water supply and residential proximity to livestock and increased exposure to viral and bacterial infections are among the major sources of the disease.

According to him, the disease is preventable particularly if modifiable risk factors are addressed, as well as early detection and treatment.

He explained that based on that, the Federal Government established National Noma Control Programme in collaboration with World Health Organisation (WHO) geared towards creating awareness and working for preventions.

”I expect the TWC to facilitate awareness creation, training of social actors and health workers on early detection, prevention and appropriate referral.

”The TWC and the National Noma champion who is the number one image maker for Noma control are set up to provide avenue for traditional fathers to talk on Noma and provide advise on how best to tackle policy implementation,” the Minister said.

He added that the committee members are distinguished professors and specialists who possessed vast experience in handling Noma cases.

He said representatives of international agencies, non-governmental organisations and government agencies are included to facilitate more success.

In an address, Sokoto State Commissioner for Health, Dr Ali Inname, called on the Federal Government to takeover Noma Specialist Hospital owned by the state due to the enormous requirements of the facility.

The Commissioner who was represented by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr Almustapha Ali, said the hospital is the only one catering for Noma patients in the area.

He said the facility rendering specialised services needs enhanced resources and urged the Federal Government to consider taking over so as to expand it with necessary instruments and manpower.

In their separate goodwill messages, WHO Field Officer, Mr Aliyu Abdullahi and Mr Philip Aruba of Medicine Sans Frontier (MSF) expressed their support to assist in addressing the menace.

Mrs Theresa Maduweke and Dr Fatima Hassan from National Orientation Agency (NOA) and National Center for Disease Control also said they will partner with the committee and agencies on prevention and increased public awareness on Noma.

In his speech, the TWC Chairman, Prof. Abdulrazaq Habib, from Bayero University Kano, assured that they would work to address Noma disease in the country.

Habib, a Professor of Infectious Diseases, urged members, agencies and the public to support them in the drive and pledged to implement policies and programmes according to the committee’s mandates.

The crowned Champion of Noma Disease, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, expressed appreciation over the recognition and said he will use the National Traditional Rulers Council in achieving the overall success of the programme.