If you would have been in my cold, barren bedchamber with me when I had first looked at images of Noma, you would have heard the following:

"Ewwww... Ugh!... You've got to be joking... Yikes!!... Ohhhhhhhhh... The humanity!!!!!!!!"

I think you can imagine that it is a rare malady that elicits that sort of response from the desensitized Comtesse, and Noma is a rare malady indeed! However, it's not rare enough, as 100,000 or more children suffer from its ravages each year. So, let's learn all about it, shall we?

Noma (also known as cancrum oris) is a gangrenous disease which results in tissue destruction of the face, especially the mouth and cheek. The website The Running Kiwi has an excellent description of how the disease progresses:

Most cases of NOMA start with ulcers on the gums. From there, the disease spreads; the mouth becomes sore and cheeks or lips become tender and swell. This causes the child considerable pain and within a few days the facial flesh starts to decay. As the gangrene destroys the flesh (sometimes even bones) a scab forms and eventually falls off leaving a gaping hole in the face. In infancy, the lips are often eaten away thus preventing the child from breastfeeding. Once facial decomposition has set in, 4 out of 5 children will die if they do not reach an hospital in time and as most of the victims live in abject poverty and in remote villages, medical treatment is not a consideration. The survivors will carry grotesque disfigurement for the rest of their lives. Most will not be able to eat or speak normally.

Although Noma is virtually unheard of in developed countries (except for immunosuppressed children), it still strikes with devastating regularity among impoverished children of sub-Saharan Africa. (The incidence rate ranges from 1 to 12 per 1000 children, depending on the area.) The disease can strike adults, but it is typically affects children between 3 and 12 years of age. The primary cause of the condition is malnutrition coupled with poor oral hygiene - something that should be easy to prevent... in a sane world.

Seems to me that if charities really wanted to lure people into sending assistance to impoverished countries, a few images like these on billboards just might do the trick!

Noma: A Horrendous Shame.

The information and photographs above were mercilessly swiped from the following fine websites:

The Running Kiwi
Noma: An Elegy To Innocence and Youth
The Imaging of Tropical Diseases
American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
BBC Noma Photo Gallery

A special thank you to ~Sparky~ for the suggestion.

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