By Minttu-Maaria Partanen
Six-year-old Felesiana Nauwake has a dream. The girl whose face is grossly deformed wants to go to school with other school-going children that walk past her window every morning. Unfortunately, she suffers from Noma disease.
Noma is a severe illness caused by a virus that destroys the facial tissue and muscles. The virus destructed Nauwake’s nose and cheek and created a lump on her forehead. Without medical treatment, it would be impossible for her to go to school.
On Thursday, Nauwake flies to South Africa to have complicated plastic surgery done on her face. The surgeons will give her a new nose and smoothen her face.
But the girl could not go to South Africa without help from others since the entire trip will cost over N$35 000.
Several individuals, schools and companies have donated money to the Felesiana Nauwake Fund. The fund covers the little girl’s surgery and trip to Pretoria. Yesterday, Namibia Health Plan gave a N$14 000 donation to the fund.
Public relations officer at NamWater Tommi Numbala said Nauwake’s fund would cover all the expenses for her surgery in Pretoria.
If there is money left after Nauwake’s surgery, the fund will donate the money to someone else in need, said Numbala acting on behalf of the trustees.
Felesiana Nauwake ‘s parents abandoned her when she was two years old because of Noma. Others raised Nauwake in the north.
At the moment, she stays in Windhoek at Rosalia Nahifitikekos’s dad’s house. Nahifitikeko looks after Nauwake.
She described the girl as a playful child who can sometimes be very naughty.
“She really wants to be like other children,” Nahifitikeko says. If others tease Nauwake about her condition, she fights back fiercely. Earlier, eating was difficult for her but now she is able to eat with a big spoon and has a good appetite.
The surgery performed on Friday should be Nauwake’s last. So far, the girl has undergone four surgical operations. She does not like the painful treatment.
When she has to put on yet another hospital gown, she usually refuses to do so. After an operation, she has always acted bravely and recovered surprisingly quickly.
Hopefully, the coming surgery is going to help Nauwake and during the coming year, her biggest dream will come true: to go to school just like any other child.
What Is Noma?
Noma disease is a caused by a virus that creates gangrene in the cheeks and mouth. The disease destroys the muscles and tissues in the face, mouth and cheeks – revealing bones and teeth.
The disease can be fatal just after a few weeks from infection.
About 80 percent of infected children die. Noma causes a severe disability because infected children often cannot open their jaws.
Children between the ages two and six years are the most vulnerable. Malnutrition and an unhygienic living environment reduces children’s ability to fight the disease.
Noma is found in Africa, South Asia and in Central Asia.
It is estimated that around 400 000 children suffer from the illness in Africa.
The only African hospital specialising in Noma disease is situated in Nigeria. Infected children need advanced plastic surgery to survive after the infection.
(Sources: The European Noma Network, Secure Our Children Foundation, Wikipedia.)