Noma is a largely forgotten and hidden disease. Noma remains little known because it affects the most marginalised children in the world and kills quickly. Noma is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, though cases have been detected in the US, south-east Asia and South America. It has been recognised for more than 1,000 years and emerged in Europe in concentration camps during the second world war.
Noma starts as a sore on the gums and progresses rapidly, destroying the soft tissues, bones, hard tissues and skin of the face. Without treatment, noma is fatal in 90% of cases, according to the World Health Organization.