Pfau, 'Mother Teresa of Pakistan,' dies at age 87

Ebony Scott
August 12, 2017

Sister Ruth Pfau, a German-born Catholic missionary who devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan, died Thursday at the age of 87.

The nun won many honors and awards for her work, both from Pakistan and Germany.

Colin Dwyer at NPR reports that Pfau's order, the Daughters of the Hearts of Mary, sent her to India when she was 29 years old. On her way there, she was held up due to visa issues for some time in Karachi, where she first encountered leprosy, an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs, and skin areas around the body.

Dr Pfau first visited Pakistan in 1960 and was so touched by the plight of leprosy victims that she chose to stay forever in the country to treat them.

After a brief stint in India, she returned to Pakistan, where she lived and worked the rest of her life.

She was also known for rescuing children with leprosy, who had been banished to caves and cattle pens for years by their parents, who were afraid of contracting the disease themselves. She convinced the government and then bosses of the health care management system to start a National Leprosy Control Programme in partnership with Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center (MALC). She came to Pakistan in 1960 and in 1988 she was granted Pakistani citizenship.

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Indeed, like Mother Teresa, Dr. Ruth Pfau helped and supported the unloved and uncared people with sheer dignity.

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. "Leprosy elimination is successfully being achieved; however, elimination is not the end of leprosy", said Pfau at the time. The government must ensure provision of necessary resources and assistance to the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center, founded by the late Dr Ruth Pfau.

"With great concern we have got the sad massage of the death of Dr Ruth Pfau". "We are like a Pakistani marriage".

"Well if it doesn't hit you the first time, I don't think it will ever hit you", she told the BBC in 2010 about her first encounter with leprosy. "We always and only fought with each other". It is a good gesture on the part of the prime minister to declare a state funeral for her. This is just as it ought to be, though there is irony in the fact that the pomp and splendour that accompany state funerals will be quite a contrast to the life of remarkable humility that Dr Pfau led. "Her services will never be forgotten".

Salwa Zainab, a spokeswoman at Pfau's office, said Friday a funeral service will be held August 19 in Karachi, where Pfau died on Thursday.

Other reports by GizPress

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