8/12/2017

Dr Ruth Pfau: The Saint Who Fought Leprosy In Pakistan, Dies


In 1960, a 31-year-old German, visited Pakistan en route to India. Her stay in Karachi delayed by a visa problem she encountered slum dwellers who suffered from the nerve and skin infection called leprosy. There she made up her mind to dedicate her life to the people of Pakistan.

Sister Dr Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau started treating leprosy patients in a local slum and then joined the volunteer group Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre to cure leprosy patients.

She then went on to set up a network of treatment and control units across the country in coordination with the government, visited every corner, state and even went to Afghanistan several times from where a lot of patients came to her clinic.

After her decades of efforts, in 1996, the World Health Organisation declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to have controlled leprosy.

Dr Pfau has also led the efforts to aid the victims of floods in province Sindh in 2010.

For her selfless work she received numerous awards including the Hilal-i-Pakistan in 1989 and the Staufer Medal, the highest award of the German state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg, in 2015.

The humanitarian passed away at the age of 87 in Karachi early on Thursday after struggling with several old age problems.

A state funeral would be held on August 19 at St. Patrick's Church in Karachi.

Condolences and tributes poured in after her death.

President Mamnoon Hussain in a statement said that, “Dr Pfau’s services to end leprosy in Pakistan cannot be forgotten. She left her homeland and made Pakistan her home to serve humanity. Pakistani nation salutes Dr Pfau and her great tradition to serve humanity will be continued.”

Chief of Army Staff Qamar Bajwa referred to Pfau as an "ambassador of humanity".

In her interview to Germany's Der Spiegel magazine in 2015 Dr Pfau said that she wanted to act against the unfairness in the world.

"I was never meant to just sit and watch", she said. "That is the worst."

"I have had the great luck to be able to apply my capabilities, to do something," she said, adding: "In all that I did, I was never alone," and she added ".. through our efforts many people have been helped."

Pakistan, a "wonderfully beautiful" country, had become her heartland, Pfau concluded.

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