An emblem of benevolence and dedication to leprosy patients, “Dr Ruth Pfau” (9 September 1929 – 10 August 2017) died in Karachi. She had been undergoing with the treatment at the ‘Marie Adelaide leprosy Center’ for the last two weeks and passed on to the great beyond during surgery at 12:30 am on Wednesday night, per the leprosy Center. Soon after her death, tributes are gushing in for the German nun who spent over half a century in Islamic Republic of Pakistan battling ‘leprosy’.
Hansen’s Disease -(Leprosy)
Hansen’s disease also called leprosy, is an infection caused by slow-growing microorganism known as Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose called nasal mucosa. With early diagnosing and treatment, the disease may be cured. People with Hansen’s disease can continue to work and lead an energetic life throughout and after treatment.
Leprosy was once feared as an extremely contagious and devastating disease, but currently we all know it does not spread easily and treatment is incredibly effective. However, if it left untreated, the nerve damage may result in disabling of hands and feet, paralysis, and visual disorder.
Her Services For The Eradication Of Leprosy
Dr. Ruth was a German-Pakistani nun, who had devoted the last 50 years of life to fighting leprosy in Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In 1960, Ruth decided & dedicated the rest of her life to the people of Pakistan and their fight against leprosy outbreaks. She came to Karachi and visited a leprosy colony on ‘McLeod Road’ behind the city railway station. Here, she decided that the care of patients would be her life’s job. She started with medical treatment for the leprosy patients in a hut in this slum quarter. The ‘Marie Adelaide leprosy Centre’ was based on welfare work for the leprosy patients. A leprosy Clinic was bought in April 1963 and patients from all over Karachi, Pakistan, and even from Afghanistan came for treatment.
Since that time, the work grew fast and little treatment centers were established in Karachi and all over Pakistan, coaching for paramedical staff and social workers were given health education started to get over prejudices and fear. Dr. Pfau visited the remote areas of Pakistan where there were no medical facilities for leprosy patients. She also collected donations in Germany and Pakistan and then co-operated with hospitals in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
It’s a journey, which she tremendously enjoyed because a remarkable difference in the patients’ condition began to emerge overtime. In 1996, the World Health Organization declared ‘Pakistan, one of the first countries in Asia to have controlled leprosy’.
“Every patient is a life story, and we enjoyed helping them all,” Dr. Ruth.
Pride Of Pakistan-Hailed As Mother Teresa
- In recognition of her service to Pakistan, she was awarded Pakistani citizenship in 1988.
- On 9 Sep 1999, Archbishop Simeon “Anthony Pereira” of Karachi celebrated a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate Sr. Pfau’s 70th birthday.
- Ruth Pfau was among recipients of civilian awards at President’s House on Pakistan Day 23 March 1989.
- Pfau received the Hilal-e-Pakistan award for her work with leprosy patients.
- Speaking at a function in Islamabad on 30 Jan 2000, to mark the 47th World leprosy Day, President ‘Rafiq Tarar’ praised her, who built up the National leprosy management Program in Pakistan, for working not just for those afflicted with leprosy, however also for those with TB.
- On a occasion on 14 August 2010, the President of Pakistan awarded the very high civil award of Nishan-e-Quaid-e-Azam to Dr. Ruth for her contributions.
Marham is highly honored of her exemplary services. She will remain in our hearts as a shining symbol in times ahead. Her altruistic work makes one question one’s own commitment to humankind.
Is it enough to create us leave behind our homes and worldly comforts?
While that will be tough to answer, what is easier to do is to be grateful for those who have, without a conjuration, shown us that humanity thrives victorious beneath the ponderous weight of lethargy.