Pakistan's 'Mother Teresa', Dr Ruth Pfau, Dies

2 2010 Ruth Pfau, head of a Pakistani charity fighting leprosy and blindness meets people in the flood-affected Begna village in southern Pakistan's Jati town

Yesterday, Ruth Pfau died at the age of 87 in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. En route to work in India, visa complications forced her to break the journey in Karachi, where she visited a lepers' colony. For over five decades, this incredible woman travelled all over Pakistan - and even areas of Afghanistan - to rescue patients who had been abandoned or worse: locked away like monsters.

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. Facing similar treatment of minorities in the country she chose to make her home, her decision to remain and quietly work for and with them is a testament to her strength and courage. "He crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal, as if someone has to crawl there through that slime and dirt on hands and feet, like a dog". In 1996, the World Health Organisation declared that the disease had been controlled in Pakistan, and previous year saw merely 531 patients under treatment.

IN the wake of her death on Thursday, Dr Ruth Pfau has been widely mourned and lavishly laurelled.

Zainab said Pfau was a "beacon of hope for underprivileged" people. 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).

Dr. Ruth Pfau clearly understood that the complex condition of leprosy patients also affected their livelihood; therefore, she purposefully inducted a number of leprosy patients as regular staff member in Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center (MALC).

"The entire nation is indebted to Ruth Pfau for her selfless and unmatched services for the eradication of leprosy".

In a statement, the office of Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced a state funeral for Pfau, known as "Pakistan's Mother Teresa". She came to Pakistan in 1960 and in 1988 she was granted Pakistani citizenship.

"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.

Lobel reports that it took some effort on Pfau's part to get the government to cooperate with her anti-leprosy efforts, but she eventually got its cooperation and was named the nation's federal advisor on leprosy. "Her services will never be forgotten". Another book by Sister Pfau, titled The Last Word is Love: Adventure, Medicine, War and God, will be available in November. Her funeral is scheduled for August 19 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi.

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