HISTORY & Distribution

The name Noma is derived from the Greek word "nome", which literally means "willow", but here it can be translated as "ulcer that eats around itself",

Physicians such as Hippocrates already knew about the disease in ancient times. In Europe, noma is documented in numerous texts of the 18th and 19th century in France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Great Britain and Spain. In 1826 and 1848, the United States also reported cases of noma. When hunger became less and less prevalent in the 20th century and hygiene measures were established, there were no more cases of noma in the industrialized countries for the time being - with the exception of the Nazi concentration camps. In Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, inmates fell ill with noma as a result of the continuing hunger and terrible hygienic conditions. However, many camp survivors who had noma did not dare to talk about the disease. Still, a man who had noma as a three-year-old child contacted us. He had no lasting deformations, as the infected mucous membrane of his mouth was etched off.

Today, the disease occurs mainly in the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and South America. The African continent is the hardest hit: about 80% of all noma patients come from there.


Reliable information on the frequency of Noma does not yet exist. However, the World Health Organization estimates that between 80,000 and 90,000 children die of Noma every year. About 10,000 survive the disease with devastating consequences. In a developing country such as Niger, there are up to
14 patients

for every 100,000 inhabitants.Hilfsaktion Noma e.V. registers patients in their countries of origin according to geographical origin, gender and age in order to compile statistics.

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