Ruth Pfau, fondly known as Pakistan’s Mother Teresa, died fighting a battle against leprosy for more than half a century.
Born in Germany in the year 1929, her family home was burned down during the World War II. Witnessing the horrors of the war made her decide to dedicate her life to the cause of humanity. After becoming a doctor, she joined Heart of Mary order.
In the year 1960, Ruth was travelling to India as part of her missionary work when she got held up in Karachi, Pakistan, for some time. It was then that she accidentally visited a leper colony and was shocked by what she saw there. That accidental visit made her decide to spend her life fighting leprosy and the stigma surrounding it in Pakistan. Recalling the first day she visited the lepers’ colony fifty years ago, she said in an interview with the BBC,
Actually the first patient who really made me decide was a young Pathan. He crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal, as if someone has to crawl there through that slime and dirt on hands and feet, like a dog.
In a few years, Ruth founded the organisation, Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center, in Karachi which has branches or presence in each and every province of Pakistan. She trained hundreds of doctors to treat leprosy, treated thousands of patients, and rescued leprosy affected children from caves and forests through her Center.
In 1996, Pakistan became one of the first Asian countries to be recognised by World Health Organisation with the disease under control. This was largely because of Dr. Ruth Pfau’s contribution.
In her later years, Mother Teresa of Pakistan also extended her services to include patients affected by tuberculosis. Along with that, she helped to rescue people and has taken care of their medical needs during times of disasters like earthquakes and floods.
For her contribution to humanity and the people of Pakistan, Ruth was honoured with the two highest civilian awards in Pakistan — Hilal-e-Imtiaz and the Hilal-e-Pakistan.
A hospital under construction has been named after Ruth by the Pakistan Air Force after she died last week at the age of 87. According to The International News, a PAF official said,
Late Doctor Ruth Pfau’s selfless services for humanity will also be remembered. The passion of this great personality for sacrifices and humanitarian services would prove to be a beacon of light for the students graduating from this school.
Embracing her unconditional love for humanity that crossed borders is how we as a society can pay our respect to this remarkable woman.