Dr. Ruth Pfau
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Pakistani Army personnel and others gather around the coffin of Ruth Pfau, a German nun who devoted her life to combatting leprosy in Pakistan, before her funeral ceremony in Karachi on August 19, 2017. Ruth Pfau, a German nun who devoted her life to combatting leprosy in Pakistan, died at the age of 87. Pfau, who was known locally as Pakistan's Mother Teresa, came to the southern port city of Karachi in 1960 and spent half a century taking care of some of the country's sickest and poorest people. She was the founder of Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, where she was being cared for at the time of her death after falling ill two weeks ago. / AFP PHOTO / RIZWAN TABASSUM
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A state funeral with full national honors was held in Karachi for Dr. Ruth Pfau, a symbol of selflessness and devotion who passed away at the age of 87 earlier this month.

The German-Pakistani doctor, passed away at the age of 87, on August 10th in the same city of Karachi while being under treatment in a private hospital.

Pfau, a German-Pakistani doctor who dedicated her life to helping leprosy patients in Pakistan, was one of the founders of the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC).

Members of the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre mourn the death of Ruth Pfau, a German nun who devoted her life to combatting leprosy in Pakistan, during her funeral ceremony in Karachi on August 19, 2017.
Ruth Pfau, a German nun who devoted her life to combatting leprosy in Pakistan, died at the age of 87. Pfau, who was known locally as Pakistan’s Mother Teresa, came to the southern port city of Karachi in 1960 and spent half a century taking care of some of the country’s sickest and poorest people. She was the founder of Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, where she was being cared for at the time of her death after falling ill two weeks ago.
/ AFP PHOTO / RIZWAN TABASSUM

As suggested by various reports, Pfau had three last wishes before her death. First, she did not want to be treated on a ventilator. Her second wish was that her dead body should be brought to Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre, the hospital of which she was in charge of. Her third wish was to be buried in a red dress.

Her State funeral was attended by COAS, Qamar Javed Bajwa while President Mamnoon Hussain paying her tribute said “her great tradition of human service would be kept alive”. He further said that she lived in the prayers of all those who were cured from leprosy as a result of her efforts.

Members of civil society and hundreds of admirers also attended the service and paid tribute to Dr. Pfau. After dignitaries departed, the graveyard was thronged by thousands of citizens whose lives she had touched.

Her Journey to Pakistan

Dr.Ruth Pfau who was German National by birth was born on September 9, 1929. She had been a witness of the mass destruction in Second World War. She was among those who lost their ‘everything’, during the war. Her home was bombed and destroyed during the war.

In 1948, she illegally crossed East Germany to West Germany to pursue her education in the field of medicine. Later in the 1950’s she completed her studies in medicine from universities of Mainz and Marburg in West Germany

It was her joining the catholic order of the ‘Daughters of the Heart of Mary’ in 1950’s which paved the way for her life-changing journey in Pakistan. she reached Pakistan in 1960, on her way to India, where she was sent on a  Mission Station in India by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a congregation of nuns that she was a member of, for a medical service for students.

Here in Karachi after her first visit to the leprosy patients, she was so much depressed that she decided to stay here and joined the group to help leprosy affected patients. By 1971, she had, in cooperation with the Provincial Governments, completed the network of treatment and control units in the Leprosy affected Provinces (Balochistan, Sindh, NWFP), Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir, traveling to every nook and corner of the country.

Awards and Achievement

In 1979, she was appointed as the Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Government of Pakistan. In 1996, she was administering the Leprosy Center. She has authored four books, about her work on Leprosy in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

She has been honored for her untiring efforts from time to time, both by Pakistan and the international community. In 1979, she was awarded the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian award of the country. In 1989, Dr Ruth was presented the Hilal-i-Pakistan for her services.

In 2002, Ramon Magsaysya Award was given to her from the Philippines. In 2005, she received Marion Doenhoff-Prize, from Germany. In 2006 she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President of Pakistan and Certificate of Appreciation from the Ministry of Health in the same year.

Martha Fernando, who worked with Dr. Pfau at MALC, said the physician’s death was a great loss to humanity.

“There is no one like her and there won’t be any replacement for her. We pray to God to send people like her again to this world so that they can continue serving people,” she said.

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