How can raising awareness, better prevention and treatment help individuals suffering from Noma, the “neglected disease”?


Noma (cancrum oris) is a gangrenous disease that predominantly affects young children living in conditions of extreme poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Noma starts in the mouth, spreading rapidly and destroying skin, muscles and bones. While surgery is costly and complex, if diagnosed early, Noma’s full onset is preventable and inexpensive to treat. Yet, the majority of children likely do not receive medical attention or receive it too late to save their faces and often their lives. Estimated at 90%, Noma has one of the highest mortality rates. Child and adult survivors suffer significant aesthetic and functional after-effects and are reported to go through intense social isolation, stigmatisation and discrimination.

The project seeks to address a range of questions concerning this issue, among which the following:

– What is the epidemiological evidence and global burden of Noma?

– What are the key risk factors of Noma?

– Does the framing of Noma as a cause and effect of human rights violations contribute to greater awareness and action amongst stakeholders?

The interdisciplinary international research team consists of world-renowned experts in the fields of Noma, epidemiology, global health, and human rights law, experienced field practitioners and a doctoral student. We will draw on a mixed-method cross-disciplinary approach to research, to establish Noma’s epidemiology and global burden, to portray the experiences of child and adult Noma survivors, and to evaluate the implications of the framing of Noma as a human rights issue and neglected tropical disease (NTD). The case study contexts are Burkina Faso, Laos, Niger and, taken together, Europe and North America.

To generate academic and social impact at local, national and international levels through the inclusion of Noma in the WHO list of NTDs, the research team relies on strong partnerships and collaborations with non-, inter- and governmental key stakeholders.

Project Keywords

  • Noma
  • Public health
  • Human rights
  • Patient experiences
  • Economic and social costs
  • Neglected diseases


  • Medicine
  • Epidemiology
  • Global health studies
  • Medical anthropology
  • Social theory
  • International human rights law
  • History of Public Health
  • Health Economics


International Organizations

  • United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
  • UNICEF Niger
  • WHO

Non-Governmental Organizations

  • HilfsAktion Noma
  • Médecins Sans Frontières
  • Fondation Sentinelles
  • Health Frontiers
  • Songes
  • Winds of Hope & International No Noma Federation

Governmental Partners

  • Burkina-Faso’s Ministry of Health
  • Niger’s Programme National de Lutte contre les maladies bucco-dentaires et le Noma

Relevant Countries

  • Burkina Faso
  • Niger
  • Laos
  • United States of America
  • Europa


This is an ongoing project, which started in autumn 2019. The information here is updated regularly. If you have any inquiries please don’t hesitate to contact the project team via the form below.

Project Description Video

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Research team


Emmanuel Kabengele Mpinga
University of Geneva

Thomas Fürst
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel

Ioana Cismas
University of York, UK

Denise Baratti-Mayer
Principal Member
University of Geneva

Marie-Solène Adamou Moussa-Pham
Principal Member
University of Geneva

Margaret Leila Srour
Principal Member
Health Frontiers Laos


Alice Trotter
Principal Member
University of York, UK

Emilien Jeannot
Associated Member
University of Geneva

Gabriel Alcoba
Associated Member
Geneva University Hospitals

Bernardino Fantini
Associated Member
University of Geneva

Moubassira Kagone
Associated Member
Centre de Recherche en Santé de Nouna, Burkina Faso