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.