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August 11, 2018

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Dr Pfau remembered on first death anniversary

Dr Pfau remembered on first death anniversary

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is observing the first death anniversary of Dr Ruth Pfau, a German doctor and nun, who dedicated her life to eradicating leprosy in the country.

Dr Pfau, who was hailed as the Mother Teresa of Pakistan, passed away on August 10, 2017 at a hospital in Karachi. She was 87. Then-prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had announced a state funeral for her and said Dr Pfau "may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan".

On Friday, caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Dr Hasan Askari said the "credit for eliminating leprosy from the country goes to the untiring efforts and passionate commitment of Dr Pfau". "The Pakistani nation appreciates the commitment and selfless passion of Dr Pfau towards serving patients," he added.

Dr Askari continued, "The way she served the leprosy patients was unique and a golden chapter in the history of public service. There is, no doubt, that late Dr Pfau was a ray of hope for the leprosy patients and she made the whole humanity proud by devotedly loving and caring for the ailing humanity."

She preferred to stay in Pakistan to serve the destitute patients and her unprecedented services and role in eradicating leprosy and tuberculosis will always be remembered with respect and reverence, he concluded.

Dr Pfau, who was born in Leipzig in 1929 and saw her home destroyed by bombing during World War-II, had discovered her calling to help lepers coincidentally. She had studied medicine and was sent to India in 1960 by her order, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, but was stuck in Karachi owing to a visa issue. During this time, she first became aware of leprosy.

However, Dr Pfau went to India in 1961 for training but then returned to Pakistan and started a campaign to contain leprosy, a mildly contagious bacterial infection. Dr Pfau trained Pakistani doctors and attracted foreign donations, building leprosy clinics across the country.

She joined the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center and soon transformed it into the hub of a network of 157 medical centers that treated tens of thousands of Pakistanis infected with leprosy. Less than four decades after Dr Pfau began her campaign, the World Health Organization declared it under control in Pakistan in 1996, ahead of most other Asian countries.

She was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988 and received numerous accolades for her services, including the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam and Hilal-i-Pakistan. In May this year, Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Tariq Bajwa along with German Ambassador to Pakistan Martin Kobler unveiled Rs50 commemorative coin in recognition of meritorious services rendered by Dr Ruth Pfau.

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