In 2008, presenter Ben Fogle was attacked by Leishmaniasis, a flesh-eating skin infection. He was lucky enough to be rapidly treated by world experts in tropical medicine. In this film, Ben investigates a similar but even more horrifying disease – Noma, which eats away at the faces of thousands of Africa’s poorest children. 90% of Noma’s victims will die, while those that survive are left horribly disfigured.
Every year a British charity, Facing Africa, sends teams of cosmetic surgeons to Africa. They volunteer to leave their top medical practices to treat some of those worst affected by Noma. We go with Ben to Ethiopia, where he joins in the difficult task of locating the Noma sufferers. They lead lives of unbearable shame and are often hidden away by their families. The victims are sent to Addis Ababa for surgery, but the visiting medics won’t be able to treat them all. Ben observes as the surgeons are forced to make agonising decisions: who can they save, and who must they send home?
The teams carry out the challenging and radical surgery over a two-week period. A month later, Ben returns to Ethiopia to visit the recovering patients. For the victims, a new face means a new life.
60 mins, BBC2, 2010