Ruth Pfau, was a German nun who devoted her life to combatting leprosy in Pakistan.
She went to Karachi in 1960 and spent over half a century taking care of some of the country’s sickest and poorest people.
Dr Ruth Pfau, is known as the ‘Mother Teresa of Pakistan for her work towards the eradication of leprosy in Pakistan.
She become the first non-Muslim woman to be given a full state-burial in Pakistan.
On International Women’s day British Asian Christian Association, commemorate the life and achievements of Dr Ruth Pfau, who helped eradicate leprosy from Pakistan. She is often hailed as the Mother Theresa of Pakistan.
Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau, born on 9 September 1929. She was a German-Pakistani Catholic nun of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and a physician.
She moved from Germany to Pakistan in 1961 and devoted more than 55 years of her life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan.
Dr Ruth travelled to all areas of Pakistan and noticed that there were no medical treatment and hospitals for patients suffering from Leprosy. She collected funds, and with donation from Germany and Pakistan and in 1968 she managed to convince the Government of Pakistan to start a National Leprosy Control Program in corporation with the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center (MALC) and set up clinics all over the country. In 1988, Dr Ruth was awarded Pakistani Citizenship. In 1989, she visited Afghanistan and worked for patients suffering from leprosy. She later extended her efforts to include treatments for blindness and tuberculosis.
Thanks to her endeavours, by 1996, the World Health Organization declared that leprosy had been controlled in Pakistan.
Dr Ruth received various honor awards for her courage. In 1969, she received Order of Merit, Nishan-e-Quaid-i-Azam, in 1979 Hilal-e-Imtiaz, 1989 Hilal-i-Pakistan, in 2002 Ramon Magsaysay Award, in 2003 the Jinnah award, in 2004 Doctor of Science Honoris Causa Aga Khan University, Karachi, in 2005 Marion Doenhoff Prize, and in 2015 German Staufer Medal.
Ruth helped to establish 157 leprosy clinics across Pakistan that treated over 56,780 people. Fazaia Ruth Pfau Medical College and Dr Ruth Pfau Hospital are named after her in Karachi. She died on 10th August 2017 and was buried with full state honours; the first Christian to be given a state funeral in Pakistan.
Ruth founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC) in Karachi in 1980 which is a 64-bed hospital that operates ten sub-centres. The centre provides urgent and ongoing medical care, as well as financial and emotional back-up to people with leprosy.
At the time of her death, Pakistan’s prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, said:
“She may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan.
“Dr Ruth came to Pakistan 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.”
“Pakistan owes a debt to Ruth Pfau for her selflessness and unmatched services for eradication of leprosy”
On International Women’s Day, 2023, Juliet Chowdhry, trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“Dr Ruth Pfau’s life is one of the most inspiring stories of unselfish love for the infirm.
“Her work saved the lives of so many people – its just a phenomenal achievement with a legacy that continues today.
“Strengthened by her faith Dr Ruth put her own life at risk to give dignity to others.”