Transforming lives in Ethiopia

America’s face – A Story of Noma

Reading time: 2 min

 “…We are dealing with the treatment of a devastating disease called Noma…and those who survive often have terrible facial deformities as well as difficulties eating and drinking. We treat these very challenging patients in the middle of a poor developing country.”

Hiroshi Nishikawa, Volunteer Surgeon

In a remote Ethiopian village, seven hours’ drive from Addis Ababa, there lives a little girl named America.

Severely malnourished and at just three-years-old, America developed the devastating disease noma. Noma is a gangrenous infection that literally devours the face: eating through skin, muscle and bone. America’s body was just too weak to fight infection and with no access to antibiotics, it took only hours for the disease to take hold.

Noma affects children under the age of 6 years, often following other illnesses or beginning as a minor gum infection. Caused primarily by malnutrition, The World Health Organisation estimates that 90% of Noma victims die within days.

An ongoing crisis

America’s desperate mother managed to get her to a local hospital. It was heart-breaking. Noma had destroyed most of the left side of her face, her nose and upper lip. With her condition deteriorating America and her mother were transferred to Addis. 

Here, America’s condition was stabilised and she was sent home to rebuild her strength for surgery. Sadly she contracted Noma for a second time and now her surgery will be even more complex and her recovery a long one.

A life changed forever

It is now almost two years later and her health is continually monitored as she grows and stabilises. When ready, she will need a series of lengthy and complex surgeries to reconstruct her face.

America in recovery

Thankfully America was found in time.

But there are many more children and young people living with horrific facial disfigurements caused by Noma, burns, tumours and animal bites. Isolated and hidden away they endure difficulties with eating, breathing and speaking.  For some the condition is life-threatening.

Please help us to restore their lives.

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