Ruth Pfau, "Mother of Leprosy Patients", Has Died

Faith Castro
August 12, 2017

On Thursday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced a state funeral for Dr Pfau.

A few days prior, she had been hospitalized in Karachi due to complications related to old age. She founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan's first hospital dedicated to treating the disease, which today has 157 branches across the country. In her message, the President said, "The Pakistani nation pays tribute to Dr. Pfau's selfless efforts". She did this with every other child and introvert human being she met in her life. "Pakistani nation salutes Dr Pfau and her great tradition to serve humanity will be continued", said President Mamnoon Hussain. Her demise has undeniably left an irreparable void to the humanitarian cause.

Harald Meyer-Porzky from the Ruth Pfau Foundation in Würzburg said Sister Pfau had "given hundreds of thousands of people a life of dignity".

Dr Pfau was born in 1929 in Germany and lived through the horrors of the World War II.

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. Many patients of leprosy, treated by the MALC, admitted that stigma is a real phenomenon in their lives that really affect their physical, psychological, social and economical well-being. Mark Lobel at the BBC reports that's when she saw leprosy up close for the first time and decided that would be her life's work. "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".

Due to her tireless efforts, the World Health Organisation in 1996 declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to be free of leprosy.

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It was around fifty seven years ago when a young and charming German lady came to Pakistan and experienced the plight of leprosy patients.

Soon after the announcement of her death, homage began pouring in from the Pakistani authorities.

Her work and dedication to humanity is an example for many. She was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988.

While Pakistan and Germany already enjoy various educational exchange programs and strong diplomatic relations, in honour of her legacy, a "Ruth Pfau Volunteer Exchange Program" should be initiated between the governments of both countries, aided by social welfare organisations if needed.

She also authored several books about her experiences, including To Light A Candle, which has been translated into English.

It may be noted that funeral mass will be held on Saturday, August 19, 2017, at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Saddar, Karachi and she will be laid to rest at the Christian cemetery, Karachi.

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