Noma, often associated with extreme poverty, is a gangrenous stomatitis that develops in the mouth and destroys the face’s soft and bone tissues. It is mainly caused by hygiene issues, malnutrition and immune deficiency related to infectious diseases. Nearly 100,000 people worldwide are affected by the malady each year, mostly children. Of these, only 20% survive: such deformation means they have trouble eating and breathing.

In 2000, anxious to put a face to these children, Dr Bellity carried out a first operation in Paris on Fati, a little girl from Burkina Faso. It was a success. However, seeing the separation trauma when time came for the girl to return to her home country, he decided that future operations would take place over there. Les Enfants du Noma (The Children of Noma) was born. This association arranges regular missions at the Maison de Fati, a local support facility for children and their carers. There, a total of 21 surgeons, 10 anaesthesiologists, four doctors and 37 nurses repair the disastrous effects of noma, but also address tumours, cleft lips and orthopaedic problems. Since the association was founded, its staff has treated 2,500 children.

In 2014, Fondation Pierre Fabre, well aware of the issues involved in tropical dermatology, decided to support Les Enfants du Noma. It will fund nine missions in Burkina Faso through 2017. It will also create a scholarship and professional development in maxillofacial surgery for local specialists. The fellows will be received in teaching hospitals in Saint-Etienne, Caen and Marseille, and Marseille’s army hospitals. Lastly, the Foundation will provide advocacy support by carrying out information campaigns on noma.

Enfants du Noma
CHU Nord - Service de Chirurgie Maxillo-Faciale
Pr. Seguin
42055 Saint-Étienne CEDEX 2
Contact :

Noma is a particularly devastating disease. The repair techniques used to treat its manifestations are sophisticated and often require several operations spaced over a number of months. This surgery cannot take place if there is not highly professional medical oversight. With the help of the Maison de Fati, Les Enfants du Noma has created a facility to receive and treat these children, so that they can benefit from the monitoring and care they need until the repairs are complete.”

Dr Philippe Bellity Plastic surgeon, Founder and President of Les Enfants du Noma

Future initiatives

The partnership between Les Enfants du Noma and Fondation Pierre Fabre is expected to expand to encompass treatment of giant keloids, which are skin growths due to abnormal scarring. Furthermore, both parties are considering spreading their work to other countries.