‘Light to the Lepers’ Ruth Pfau dies in Pakistan

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Islamabad, Aug 10 (IANS) German nun Ruth Pfau, who dedicated more than 50 years of her life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan, died on Thursday in Karachi aged 87.

“With deep sorrow we announce the sad demise of Dr. Ruth Katharina Martha Pfau,” read a statement of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, to which she belonged, reports Efe news.

Homage began pouring in from the Pakistani authorities soon after the announcement of her death.

“Ruth Pfau may have been born in Germany, her heart was always in Pakistan. She came here at the dawn of a young nation looking to make lives better for those afflicted by disease, and in doing so, found herself a home. We will remember her for her courage, her loyalty, her service to the eradication of leprosy,” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in a statement.

“Dr Pfau’s services to end leprosy in Pakistan cannot be forgotten. She left her homeland and made Pakistan her home to serve humanity. Pakistani nation salutes Dr Pfau and her great tradition to serve humanity will be continued,” President Mamnoon Hussain said in another statement.

Known as “Light to the Lepers”, the nun was admitted to a hospital in Karachi two weeks ago following deterioration of her health.

As the founder of the National Leprosy Control Programme in Pakistan and Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC), she is considered to be among the most significant people behind the end of leprosy in the country.

She studied medicine in Germany in the 1950s and joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary before leaving for India via Karachi. However, a visa problem kept Pfau in Pakistan, where she went on to live for 57 years.

In 1963, she founded MALC with the opening of a clinic. The nun persuaded the Pakistani government five years later to start a programme against leprosy across the country.

She was presented with Pakistan’s second highest civilian honour, Hilal-i-Imtiaz, in 1979 in recognition of her work.

Pfau was granted Pakistani nationality in 1988 and she was presented with the Hilal-i-Pakistan, the country’s highest civilian honour, the next year.

–IANS

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