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Oro-facial noma is an oral gangrene occurring in early childhood in extremely poor areas. As many as 70-90% of those with noma die, and to date, there is no satisfactory treatment to fight this disease. Within the context of the World Health Organization international program against noma, a 13-year retrospective study based on clinical records was carried out in Dakar, Senegal in an attempt to understand the epidemiology of noma. Between 1981 and 1993, 199 cases of noma were identified, among them; 36.7% were acute cases and 63.3% showed sequelae. Chronic sequelae of noma were seen in patients 2-41 years of age, but the acute phase of noma was found only in young children (77.7% in those 1-4 years of age, maximum age = 9 years, mean age +/- SD age = 3.4 +/- 1.9 years). A total of 73.1% of the cases with acute disease were reported in the Dakar, Diourbel and Kaolack regions during the dry season (57.0% of the cases). The lesions of progressive noma were localized mainly on the upper lip (42.4%) and the cheek (31.1%). A total of 96.9% of the patients with acute diseases were had poor general health with serious associated diseases; only 20.0% had a good vital prognosis. The development of epidemiologic surveillance programs for noma should be a public health priority in Senegal.