In 1998, Chris Lawrence heard about the terrible plight of the hundreds of thousands of children suffering the dreadful and shocking destructive and devastating effects of “Noma”.
He wanted to do something, anything to help, and contacted Allan Thom, a Consultant Orthodontist whom he had known for several years to ask if he had ever come across the disease.
Together, Chris and Allan researched, spoke to dozens of people, scoured the internet and finally conceived and registered the charity “Facing Africa – NOMA”. At first they groped around in the dark looking at a variety of countries in West Africa with known incidence of Noma but getting detailed information and answers was laborious and fraught with contradictions. Should they consider finding isolated Noma sufferers and bring them to England for months of complex facial operations or try to make up a team of volunteers to deal with children in their own environments? After weighty deliberations, it was agreed that it is far more effective to put together occasional expeditions to a chosen location in Africa and operate as often as volunteers could be found and as often as could be financially viable. Chris and Allan faxed, phoned and e-mailed doctors, surgeons and hospital administrators in a variety of West African countries, but with precious little result.
But on 2nd July 2000, Chris had an fortuitous meeting with Dr Klaas Marck, founder and President of Dutch Noma Foundation (www.noma.nl), a charity set up in 1996 that sends teams of volunteer surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists to the Childrens Noma Hospital in Sokoto, Nigeria.
Since 2000, Facing Africa has been working closely with it’s European partners AWD Stiftung Kinderhilfe (Germany) (www.noma-project.de) and The Dutch Noma Foundation . So far (Feb 2013) we have raised over £ 2.75 million (about US $ 4.4 million) which has been spent on funding the teams each year from Europe to Ethiopia (air fares, hotel accommodation, ground transportation medical equipment and supplies, hospital fees, scans, surgical instruments, capital expenditure), training schemes and many other essential expenses. It should be noted that less than 6% of Facing Africa’s turnover is spent on administration.