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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/18/10

NOMA - The Face of Poverty

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Crossposted from Axis of Logic

The following article is based on a report "The tragedy of Noma [1]", prepared by Mr. Jean Ziegler, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee. Unless otherwise noted, the quotes in this article are all excerpted from this report by Jean Ziegler.

Malnutrition and hunger are not only direct killers of children and adults all over the developing world. A lesser-known but horrible result of the negligence and callousness of the rich Western world is a cruelly disfiguring disease called noma (from Ancient Greek nom "spreading of sores"), a scourge which is destroying lives in large parts of the developing nations.

Until very recently, little has been done in the world in order to deal with this awful disease, partly because it was mostly hidden away, due to the cruelly disfiguring facial sores that it causes. [2] Impoverished parents, having children who were infected by noma, tended to hide their children away with their animals out of shame that they might bring dishonor on their families. It should be noted that noma is not even mentioned in a fact sheet on the top killer diseases in the developing world.

Nevertheless, for quite a few years now, private individuals as well as organizations have begun to deal with the victims of this horror. Treatment is possible at an early stage and surgery to restore destroyed faces is quite possible even at later stages. But the steps that have been taken so far are so few and far between that attention has to be drawn to the need for the World Health organization (WHO) to deal with it on a far larger scale.

The characteristics of noma

But let us first take a look at how and why this disease is spreading in poor parts of the world and then what can be done to make serious efforts to eradicate it, as has been done with other scourges such as leprosy, malaria, tuberculosis, measles and a multitude of other diseases that are now increasingly under control.

Noma (cancrum oris), which borrows its name from the Greek term "to devour", is a devastating infectious disease that destroys the soft and hard tissue of the face. The lesion begins as a localized ulceration in the gingiva or the mucosa of the cheek or lip and spreads rapidly through the orofacial tissues. Untreated, the skin of the cheek or lip is typically perforated within a week of the start of the swelling. The gangrene of the facial tissue quickly spreads to other parts of the face such as the nose or an eye, leaving a terrible hole in the face. Noma leads to gangrene, sepsis and in 70-90% of cases, death. Most deaths are attributed to

complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and septicaemia associated with severe malnutrition.

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Siv O'Neall was born and raised in Sweden where she graduated from Lund University. She has lived in Paris, France and New Rochelle, N.Y. and traveled extensively throughout the U.S, Europe, and other continents, including several trips to (more...)

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