PM Abbasi announces state funeral for late Dr Ruth Pfau

"In a society where people tend to avoid any contact with a leprosy patient it was the Pakistan's Mother Teresa who helped cleaned the deformed patients and provided them decent employment opportunities, a rehabilitated patient of MALC remarked".

Born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1929, she went to France to study medicine and later joined the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. But before she began her work there, a visa snafu left her stuck in Karachi. After witnessing the plight of leprosy patients, she made a decision to settle here.

"When you receive such a calling, you can not turn it down, for it is not you who has made the choice", she told the Express Tribune.

Like Mother Teresa, the ethnic Albanian nun who became known as "the saint of the gutters" for her service to the destitute of India, Dr. Pfau lived among the people she cared for and by a vow of poverty. He further said that she lived in the prayers of all those who were cured from leprosy as a result of her efforts.

In 1962 Sister Ruth founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan's first hospital dedicated to treating Hansen's disease, and later set up its branches in all provinces of Pakistan. She was granted citizenship in 1988.

Sister Pfau trained numerous doctors in the treatment of leprosy, and in 1996 the World Health Organization declared that leprosy had been controlled in the country. "Leprosy elimination is successfully being achieved; however, elimination is not the end of leprosy", said Pfau at the time.

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). In 1979, the Pakistani government appointed her Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. "We are like a Pakistani marriage".

"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. We always and only fought with each other.

Sister Ruth Pfau, a German-born Catholic missionary who devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan, died Thursday at the age of 87. In 1989, Dr Ruth was presented the Hilal-i-Pakistan for her services. "She came here at the dawn of a young nation looking to make lives better for those afflicted by disease, and in doing so, found herself a home".

One of my conversation with a MALC doctor, who extensively travelled with the great lady, he recalled that she happily spent much time with the leprosy patients and their families. She said she almost married a fellow student before experiencing what she described as a calling from God. Her funeral is scheduled for August 19 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi.

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