Education about Noma on a nigerien marketplace

Medical treatment during the early stages of Noma and prevention activities in Niger support the organization’s work. Without education, only few children could ben helped. On the one hand, people would not recognize the disease early on and make it easier for Noma to spread. On the other hand, many tribes in Niger view disfigurements as a curse and hide or expel those suffering from the disease because of shame. The high percentage of illiterate people in Niger (80% of the population) calls for alternatives to written information.

“Only knowledge empowers”

Together with actors from Niger, the organization developed a traditional play. This is common in countries with a high percentage of illiteracy. The play tells the story of a family that has a child suffering from Noma. The parents wonder why the child has strong mouth odor, high fever and refuses to eat. They take the child to a traditional healer. He writes the name of the disease on a blackboard, washes it off and forces the child to drink the dirty water. Afterwards, he cuts necrotic, i.e. dead tissue from the cheek. Many children die because of this supposed healing method. In the play an outsider, who is informed about Noma, appears and explains medical help to the parents. The help is free, but the parents have to act quickly and get on their way. The actors drastically illustrate the problems caused by the disease.

Employees of the organization in Niger come from different tribes of the country, since ethnic groups only accept their kinsmen and do not want to be taught by others. Language difference would also make communication more difficult otherwise. The employees of the organization educate their kinsmen about Noma and bring sick children from all over the country to one of four children’s houses.