MSF provides life-changing facial surgeries for noma survivors

The Noma Children's Hospital in Sokoto, Nigeria is the only hospital in the world entirely dedicated to noma patients.

Noma is an infection of the face that affects children, 90 percent of whom die within the first few weeks of developing symptoms. This neglected disease impacts people worldwide living in poverty without adequate access to health care.

Since 2014, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been supporting the Nigerian ministry of health, in the Noma Children's Hospital in Sokoto, the only hospital in the world entirely dedicated to noma patients.

“We're giving people their self-esteem back,” said Mark Sherlock, an MSF health advisor, "so they can go on and live normal lives in their communities. And this is having a huge impact.” When this video was made in 2021, COVID-19 travel restrictions limited MSF’s ability to provide services to noma survivors. Through a collaboration with the ministry of health, MSF supported a surgical team in Sokoto to carry out 20 surgeries.

Many more people need access to these life-changing services, so MSF is calling for three action points to be carried out by the international community:

  • Put noma on the World Health Organization's list of neglected tropical diseases to shine a light on this disease and stimulate more research
  • Include noma as an indicator for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—noma is linked to poverty and children’s access to health care and vaccinations, all components that the SDGs address
  • And to integrate noma into routine health services so that children in endemic countries are screened for the early signs and symptoms of the disease, and more lives can be saved.

Watch a short MSF documentary, "Facing Noma,"  here.