My tribute to Dr. Ruth Pfau, a true humanitarian was buried today on 19 August 2017.
She is no more with us, but we will remember her always “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa
“Her selfless and unmatched service to humanity will be remembered and she will remain in our hearts as Shining Star.”
According to her, “Not all of us can prevent a war; but most of us can help ease sufferings—of the body and the soul” — Ruth Dr. Pfau
Dr. Ruth Pfau, was a German-born Pakistani physician and nun of the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. She moved from Germany to Pakistan and devoted nearly 55 years of her life to fighting Leprosy which resulted in deceleration of Pakistan by WHO to have controlled Leprosy.
Known as “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa“, Dr. Pfau contributed in founding 150 leprosy clinics across Pakistan. She travelled to various parts of Pakistan and across the border to Afghanistan to rescue patients who were abandoned by their families or locked in small rooms for a lifetime.
Life of Dr. Ruth Pfau:
She dedicated her life to the people of Pakistan and their battle against leprosy outbreaks. While in Karachi, by chance she visited the Lepers’ Colony behind McLeod Road.
Here she decided that the care of patients would be her life’s calling. She started with medical treatment for the leprosy patients in a hut in this slum.
Dr. Ruth, founded The Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre, which later branched out into tuberculosis and blindness prevention programmes) and social work for the leprosy patients and their family members.
In 1979, she was appointed as the Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Government of Pakistan. Dr. Pfau went to distant areas of Pakistan where there were no medical facilities for leprosy patients. She collected donations from Germany and Pakistan. In recognition of her service to the country, she was awarded Pakistani citizenship in 1988.
Due to her continued efforts, in 1996, the World Health Organisation declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to have controlled leprosy.
On 9 September 1999, Archbishop Simeon Anthony Pereira of Karachi celebrated a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate Sr. Dr. Pfau’s 70th birthday, which was attended by Christians together with Muslims.
Death and Funeral of Dr. Ruth Pfau:
Dr. Ruth Dr. Pfau died on 10 August 2017, at the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi. She had been suffering with several health problems due to her advancing age, including kidney and heart diseases.
On 19 August 2017, a state funeral for Dr. Pfau was held at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, in front of which the flags of Pakistan and Vatican City were raised at half mast. Dr. Ruth was buried in a Christian cemetery in Karachi.
Dr. Ruth Pfau was reportedly the first Christian to have a state funeral in Pakistan.
Awards and recognition:
Ruth Dr. Pfau is recognised in Pakistan and abroad as a distinguished human being and had been awarded many awards and medals:
- 1969: Order of Merit (Germany)
- 1969: Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam
- 1979: Hilal-e-Imtiaz
- 1989: Hilal-i-Pakistan, at the President House for her work with leprosy patients
- 2000, to mark the 47th World Leprosy Day, President of Pakistan, Rafiq Tarar praised Dr. Pfau, who built up the National Leprosy Control Program in Pakistan, for working not only for those afflicted with leprosy, but also for those with tuberculosis.
- 2002: Ramon Magsaysay Award
- 2003: Jinnah Award for 2002
- 2004: Doctor of Science (DSc), honoris causa. Aga Khan University, Karachi
- 2006, Dr. Pfau was honoured as the ‘Woman of the Year 2006
- 2010: Nishan-i-Quaid-i Azam for public service.
- She was hailed as Pakistan’s “Mother Teresa” after her work towards helping people displaced by the 2010 Pakistan floods
- In 2015, Dr. Pfau was awarded the Staufer Medal, the highest award of the German state of Baden-Württemberg
- 2017: Renaming of the Civil Hospital, Karachi to Dr. Ruth K.M. Dr. Pfau Hospital. As an acknowledgment of “selfless services of the late social servant”