ISLAMABAD: Ruth Pfau, a German doctor and nun who dedicated her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan and has been described as the country’s Mother Teresa, was remembered on her first death anniversary all across the world.
According to a report aired by a private news channel Dr Pfau, who was born in Leipzig in 1929 and saw her home destroyed by bombing during World War Two, had discovered her calling to help lepers coincidentally.
Dr. Pfau first came to Pakistan when she was 29 years of age in 1960. As a part of the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary, her devotion to doing something in and for Pakistan took her to become Pakistan’s leprosy fighter.
She had studied medicine and was sent to India in 1960 by her order, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, but was stuck in Karachi owing to a visa issue. During this time, she first became aware of leprosy.
Dr Pfau witnessed leprosy in Pakistan for the first time in 1960 and returned to set up clinics across the country.
Dr Pfau rescued disfigured and suffering children who had been confined to caves and cattle pens for years by their parents, who were terrified that they were contagious.
She trained Pakistani doctors and attracted foreign donations, founding Pakistan’s National Leprosy Control Programme and the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre, which has a presence in every Pakistani province.
Dr Pfau also won praise for her efforts in helping the victims of devastating floods in south-western Pakistan in 2010.
She received numerous honours for her work, including the Hilal-e-Imtiaz – Pakistan’s second highest civilian award in 1979, the Hilal-e-Pakistan in 1989 and the German Staufer Medal in 2015.
Less than four decades after Dr Pfau began her campaign, the World Health Organization declared it under control in Pakistan in 1996, ahead of most other Asian countries.
She wrote four books in German about her work in Pakistan, including To Light A Candle, which has been translated into English.
Dr Pfau passed away on August 10, 2017 at a hospital in Karachi when she was 87.
Then-prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had announced a state funeral for her and said Dr Pfau “may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan”.
In May this year, Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Tariq Bajwa along with German Ambassador to Pakistan Martin Kobler unveiled Rs50 commemorative coin in recognition of meritorious services rendered by Dr Ruth Pfau. —APP