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Ann Afr Med. 2019 Jan-Mar;18(1):17-22. doi: 10.4103/aam.aam_5_18.

Pattern of noma (cancrum oris) and its risk factors in Northwestern Nigeria: A hospital-based retrospective study.

Author information

Department of Surgery, Noma Children Hospital, Sokoto, Nigeria.
Department of Community Health, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria.


in English, French


Noma (cancrum oris) remains the scourge of children and the "face of poverty" in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recent data on the burden of noma and its risk factors are needed for evaluating and redesigning interventions for its prevention and control.


This study aimed to determine the pattern of noma and its risk factors in Northwestern Nigeria.

Materials and Methods:

It was a retrospective study that looked into cases of noma (cancrum oris) admitted into the Noma Children Hospital, Sokoto, Nigeria, between January 1999 and December 2011. Information on patients' bio-data, the site and severity of lesions, and presence of trismus and its severity were extracted from the patients' case files and analyzed using descriptive statistics.


One hundred and fifty-nine (8.3%) of the 1923 patients admitted to the hospital from January 1999 to December 2011 were diagnosed with fresh noma. The mean age of the patients was 3.0 ± 1.4 years, and majority of them, 139 (87.4%) were aged 1-5 years. The soft-tissue lesions essentially involved multiple sites but most commonly the outer and inner cheeks (84.3%). The most common risk factors identified were measles (47.2%) and protein-energy malnutrition (42.1%). There were rises and falls in the prevalence of noma in the period studied.


This study showed a high burden of noma in Northwestern Nigeria, mostly among children aged 1-5 years, and with soft-tissue lesions involving multiple sites. Measles and malnutrition were the major risk factors identified, and the disease trend showed a wave-like pattern. There is an urgent need to eliminate the disease in Nigeria through prevention and control of infectious diseases and malnutrition.


Noma (cancrum oris); pattern; risk factors

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