Noma, also known as cancrum oris, has been described since the time of Hippocrates. It is a rapidly progressing bacterial infection of the mouth that usually causes significant facial deformities.
The disease has virtually disappeared in the developed world but is fairly rampant in areas with severe poverty, malnutrition, poor oral hygiene and AIDS.
My friend Katembo had a very mild case of the disease. He has been patiently waiting for four months for surgery. His aunt, the primary caretaker since his mother died of an unknown illness, is unsure when he will have a corrective procedure. They just go about their daily lives and ask no questions.
I approached the hospital administration on his behalf and learned that he “may have” a procedure in February if a plastic surgeon from the US arrives. In other words, he and his aunt will continue to sleep on the hospital grounds for three more months for a “possible” intervention.
Their patience is commendable.