Medicine

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

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

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.

Trained as a medical doctor, she devoted decades of her life to assisting the Asian country's leprosy victims.

Yesterday, Ruth Pfau died at the age of 87 in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced a state funeral for Dr Pfau, saying she "may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan". In her message, the President said, "The Pakistani nation pays tribute to Dr. Pfau's selfless efforts". She left her homeland and made Pakistan her home to serve humanity.

IN the wake of her death on Thursday, Dr Ruth Pfau has been widely mourned and lavishly laurelled. 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. Afterwards, she returned to Karachi to organize and expand the Leprosy Control Program. She set up the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre for patients' care, where in the early 1980s almost 20,000 leprosy patients were under treatment in the country. "It was an arranged marriage because it was necessary", she told Lobel.

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"The most important thing is that we give them their dignity back", she told the BBC at the time.

One of my conversation with a MALC doctor, who extensively travelled with the great lady, he recalled that she happily spent much time with the leprosy patients and their families. It was due to her efforts against the disease that Pakistan was declared the first country in Asia to have controlled leprosy.

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

Not required to take the veil or live in seclusion, she ended up in Pakistan by chance. Dutch nun Gertrude Lemmens, for example, started her mission in pre-Partition India and continued in Pakistan till her death in 2000. In 1979, the Pakistani government appointed her Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

It was only the vision of Dr. Ruth Pfau, who was also the recipient of a number of prestigious national, regional and worldwide 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.

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