March 21, 2018

Sister Pfau, German Nun Renowned for Treating Pakistan's Lepers, Dies at 87

12 August 2017, 09:34 | Rodolfo Wallace

Ruth Pfau in 2004

Ruth Pfau

Dr Pfau, who was German by birth, had been sent to Pakistan in 1960 by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a congregation of nuns that she was a member of, for a medical service for students. Dr Ruth Pfau received numerous accolades for her services; Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 1979, Hilal-i-Pakistan in 1989 and the German Staufer Medal in 2015. After witnessing the plight of leprosy patients, she chose to settle here. On Thursday (Aug 10), lepers' light, Dr Ruth Pfau, left the world. Afterwards, she returned to Karachi to organize and expand the Leprosy Control Program. High ranking government officials, including the Chief Minister Sindh and civil society representatives visited the Karachi based MALC head office and paid rich tribute to their founder for her life-long cause, serving the unserved. She was the one who never let the flag of humanity fall. She founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi in 1962 and later set up its branches in all provinces of Pakistan, including Gilgit-Baltistan, and treated over 50,000 families. "He must have been my age, I was at this time not yet 30, and he crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal, as if someone has to crawl there through that slime and dirt on hands and feet, like a dog".

"The most important thing is that we give them their dignity back", she told the BBC at the time. She was the one who touched those who were believed to be untouchable.

"It was due to her endless struggle that Pakistan defeated leprosy", the German Consulate in Karachi posted on Facebook after learning of Sister Pfau's death.

With Pfau's help, Pakistan was able to declare leprosy under control in 1996.

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Lobel reports that it took some effort on Pfau's part to get the government to cooperate with her anti-leprosy efforts, but she eventually got its cooperation and was named the nation's federal advisor on leprosy. She spent more than a half century of public service and finally went on his eternal journey.

It was only the vision of Dr. Ruth Pfau, who was also the recipient of a number of prestigious national, regional and global awards including Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam, Hilal-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Pakistan, Ramon Magsaysay Award and BAMBI Award, that made possible the establishment of 157 Leprosy Control Centers from Karachi to Kashmir.

Dr Pfau was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988. In 2002 she won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as Asia's Nobel Prize.

Pfau wrote several books about her work in Pakistan, with a new volume in English titled, The Last Word Is Love: Adventure, Medicine, War and God, due out in November. May her soul rest in peace.

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