Mari Clarke spent three weeks in the country helping those fighting the deadly condition called Noma disease or Noma Belt.

By Darren Devine (Wales Online) |

A Welsh nurse has spent three weeks treating African patients battling a deadly face-eating disease.

Mari Clarke, from Port Talbot (southern Wales), worked in a specialist center near Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, looking after people who have had surgery for Noma disease.

The condition is a ravaging, gangrenous infection that attacks the face, leaving gaping holes and is rife among sub-Saharan Africa’s most impoverished and malnourished people.

Up to 90% of those who get the disease end up dead.

140,000 new cases every year

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 140,000 new cases occur each year in sub-Saharan countries from Senegal to Ethiopia – a region known as the Noma Belt.

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Tissue viability nurse Mari said: “It’s very common in poor areas. It can be treated in the early stages with antibiotics but these people don’t have access to them so the condition goes on to develop and becomes quite disfiguring.

“People with Noma can become very isolated. In the young it can result in locked jaw and they can’t eat. They’re malnourished anyway and they can die of starvation if they’re not treated.”

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