Dr. Ruth Pfau, A Ray of Hope against Leprosy

By Farzeen Amin

‘Not all of us can prevent a war, but most of us can help ease suffering’

Dr. Ruth Pfau got birth in Leipzig, Germany in 1929. At the time of her birth Germany was already a war torn country after its defeat in World war 1. Adolf Hitler had taken control of the state and he was eagerly and aggressively preparing the country for another war that he was going to start. To have born at a war torn country Ruth Pfau had to survive through the thick in the initial years of her life. World war two started in 1939. Leipzig was heavily bombarded resulted in destruction of Ruth Pfau’s home although she and her family manage to escape the attack.

While the country was fighting a great war Ruth Pfau and her family was fighting against the death and for the survival. Ruth’s family manages to flee from the East Germany under Sovient Union to West Germany. In the struggle to reach West Germany Ruth Pfau had lost her brother to death. This tragic incident inspired her to become a doctor so that she could save the valuable lives that are put into danger. Ruth was born in a protestant family but later during her studies in Paris she converted to Catholicism later she decided to devote her life in the work of God and became a Nun.

Dr. Ruth Pfau and her accidental visit to Pakistan

Dr. Ruth Pfau had never planned to visit Pakistan at first place. In 1960 she was on her way to India but due to a visa issue she had to be stopped at Karachi. Ruth was waiting for the problem to be resolved and meanwhile she randomly visited a Leper colony. What she saw there had made her feel miserable. She saw a man who was crawling on floor to move forward. His hands, legs and feet were covered with thick mud. Ruth Pfau could not swallow the grief of that man as man deserves to live like an animal crawling on the floor. Just in that moment she had decided to help people to heal out of this pain and misery.

Leprosy, the dreadful disease

Leprosy is a bacterial disease that affects the peripheral nerves, skin and the muscular movement. The disease is mildly contagious but it was spreading like fire in Pakistan after the independence of state. The disease had caused paralyses and disability to move. The patients in severe causes lose control over the movements of limps making them handicapped. Dr. Ruth Pfau took training in India for a certain time and came back to Pakistan in the same year.

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The struggle to eradicate leprosy from Pakistan

In 1960 Ruth had entered Pakistan and she never looked back. She started the fight against Leprosy by joining Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center which was situated in Karachi. The center had opened in Karachi in 1956. From 1960 and onwards 157 other branches of the center mere installed to treat the patients of leprosy throughout Pakistan. Ruth Pfau had achieved with milestone with help or German, Australian and Pakistani donors. In 1996 World Health Organization (WHO) had declared leprosy to be under control in Pakistan. Pakistan was the first Asian country to secure control over the rising problem of leprosy. Ruth Pfau continued to work against the other diseases such as blindness as well.

The satellite of clinics had been on the forefront whenever a calamity had hit Pakistan. It had treated more than 2000 drought victims in Balochistan further more the center also worked for people during the 2005 earthquake and the drastic floods of 2010.

Ruth Pfau had completed her mission of the control of leprosy but she never left Pakistan. Ruth was given the honor of citizenship of Pakistan in 1988. Dr. Ruth came to Pakistan when she was under 30 years of age. She devoted her entire life in the welfare of the poor and victims of diseases in Pakistan. Pakistan had become a home to the humble and noble lady. There is no way to reward the deeds for Ruth Pfau and her devotion towards Pakistan nevertheless she was awarded with Sitara e Quaid e azam, Hilal e Imtiaz, Hilal e Pakisatn and Nishan e Quaid e Azam. In 2017 the Civil Hospital Karachi was remained in her honor as Dr. Ruth K.M. Pfau. Finally Dr. Ruth died in Pakistan on 10th August 2017. He was given the state honor at her funeral. She has lain in peace in Karachi.