Noma, visual and hearing disorders, and medical projects


Noma is a devastating gangrenous disease that develops in the mouths of children aged 2 to 12 years and devastates the facial tissues..

Its causes are primarily due to malnutrition and lack of oral hygiene.
The disease occurs mainly in Africa as well as in some countries in Asia and Latin America.

Without treatment, Noma is fatal in 80% of all instances. It leaves survivors in an unbearably mutilated condition. Disfigured children tend to be socially excluded from their community. They are barred from attending school or taking part in the social life of their village for fear of contagion – which does not exist – or the evil eye to which the disease is believed to be attributed by the local communities.

Although it has a long history, it has never been possible to identify a single specific causative agent. Although it has a long history, it has never been possible to identify a single specific causative agent. Nevertheless, if the ulcerative stomatitis that precedes Noma is detected in time, it is possible to prevent Noma disease by using antibiotics.

In order to find a remedy, the Foundation has financed since 1999 a team of researchers from the UNIGE and the HUG (GESNOMA – Geneva StudyGroup on Noma). Thanks to its extensive efforts, this team has succeeded in pinpointing the starting point of the disease, thus opening up new possibilities for a prevention strategy.

In collaboration with the Association d’Entraide des Mutilés du Visage (AEMV), an association for helping facially disfigured people, and the Sentinelles Foundation, the Hirzel Foundation regularly provides funding for reconstructive surgery for children affected by Noma, mainly in Mali and Burkina Faso.

In 2016, the Foundation financed a health and reintegration centre in Bamako for children injured by Noma. The Hirzel Centre is home to surgical missions treating the after-effects of Noma, burns, tumours, cleft lip and palate, and others.

The Hirzel Foundation is a member of the NONOMA international federation.

Visual disorders

The Foundation is committed to the detection, care, and treatment of children with visual impairments.

In developing countries, where early detection is not systematically available, visual defects impair learning and social interaction that can persist throughout a child’s lifetime. Impaired vision in children leads to isolation, which in turn causes great suffering.

Hearing disorders

The Foundation works towards the detection, treatment, care, and support of children with hearing impairments.

Newborn hearing screening is vital for a child’s healthy development. However, it is not routinely carried out in all countries.
If not treated early, permanent deafness may result.

Hearing loss in children greatly affects their linguistic and intellectual development.
Hearing impairment severely impacts their interactions with their environment. It is a source of isolation and considerable suffering.

Medical projects

The Foundation provides support for medical research projects related to Noma as well as to the care of hearing and visual disorders of children living in developing countries.