Society and Culture

Ruth Pfau

When Dr Ruth Pfau came to Pakistan from West Germany in 1960 as part of a congregation of nuns known as the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, she hadn’t intended to stay for a long time.

Aug 11, 2017
When Dr Ruth Pfau came to Pakistan from West Germany in 1960 as part of a congregation of nuns known as the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, she hadn’t intended to stay for a long time. She was only here for a medical service for students before heading to India. She ended up making Pakistan home for the next 58 years, until her death at the age of 87, becoming a citizen of the country and winning a place in all our hearts. She knew this was going to be her home all those decades ago when she saw the severe suffering of leprosy patients here. Pfau travelled up and down the country treating leprosy patients and set up the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi. So committed was she to her work that by 1996 Pakistan was the first country in the region to have controlled leprosy. 
 
Under her tutelage, the MALC became one of the best run hospitals in the country. It provided free treatment and medication to all leprosy patients, had after-care services and even employed many former patients so that they could be reintegrated into society. Above all, she taught us all about the humanity of those who suffer from this crippling disease. No one has done more than Dr Ruth Pfau to remove the stigma that has often been attached to leprosy patients. on Thursday When Dr Ruth Pfau came to Pakistan from West Germany in 1960 as part of a congregation of nuns known as the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, she hadn’t intended to stay for a long time. She was only here for a medical service for students before heading to India. She ended up making Pakistan home for the next 58 years, until her death for Dr Ruth Pfau; the state will do itself an honour by doing that for a woman who dedicated her whole life to Pakistan. 
 
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Pfau. She would often be threatened due to her work for female leprosy patients in remote parts of the country. Help from the government would be scarce and donations weren’t always forthcoming. Pfau, never one to suffer an excess of pride or devotion to materialism, sold many of the countless awards she was given to fund the MALC. She also founded the National Leprosy Control Programme which treated those suffering from leprosy and tuberculosis. After the flooding in 2010, she was one of the first to reach the scene to help the victims. Her selflessness and the efficiency with which she ran the MALC eventually led the government to provide the hospital with free electricity and pharmaceutical companies would give the MALC free medication for its patients. Along with Abdul Sattar Edhi she became the beating heart and conscience of Pakistan. With her passing, Pakistan has lost one of its greatest citizens. The best tribute we can pay to her is to continue her life’s work. There are still about 500 new cases of leprosy a year and we owe it to Ruth Pfau to finally achieve her ambition of completely eradicating this disease. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has announced a state funeral
 
The News, August 11, 2017

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