Fair Exchange

Fair Exchange provides impartial travel advice in return for a donation to charity.

Readers seeking candid recommendations on where to stay, where to avoid, and the specialist with whom to travel can contact Sophy Roberts at fairexchange@sophyroberts.com.

Wherever appropriate, you will get direct contacts for travel experts on the ground, thus cutting out unncessary middlemen and their associated costs. Sophy will also recommend agents and operators with the tested specialism for your needs. 

In return Sophy asks that if a private trip is booked on the back of the conversation, an online donation of any amount is made to Facing Africa, a charity that addresses a disease called noma.

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What is Noma?

Noma (cancrum oris) is an acute gangrenous infection affecting the face. The victims of noma are mainly children under the age of six suffering from extreme poverty and chronic malnutrition.

Noma begins with ulcers in the mouth. If the condition is detected in the early stages, progression can be prevented with the use of mild antibiotics and immediate nutritional rehabilitation. If left untreated, as happens in most cases, the ulcers progress to noma at an alarming pace. The next stage is extremely painful when the cheeks or lips begin to swell and the victim's general condition deteriorates. Within a few days, a blackish furrow appears and the gangrenous process sets in to leave a gaping hole in the face. Some sufferers can no longer eat or drink and so they starve to death.

It is estimated that the mortality rate reaches an alarming 90 per cent, with noma causing some 126,000 deaths each year, mainly in sub-Saharan countries from Senegal to Ethiopia. For this reason the region is known as 'the noma belt'. Those who do survive will suffer hideous facial disfigurement, functional impairment—many unable to speak or eat normally again—and become social outcasts.

To understand noma at a more comprehensive level, a recent BBC documentary, 'Make Me A New Face: Hope for Africa's Hidden Children', explains the disease as well as the work undertaken by the charity Facing Africa.