The Mother Teresa of Pakistan
Dr Ruth Pfau, also known as the Mother Teresa of Pakistan, was a shining beacon of hope for leprosy patients in Pakistan. She was born in Germany in 1929 and grew up seeing the death and destruction of the Second World War. Germany was divided into East and West Germany under Russia occupation.
In 1948, Ruth and her family escaped from the occupied East Germany to West Germany. She opted to become a doctor and studied medicine at Mainz and Marburg. Afterwards, Dr Ruth joined the Catholic order of the ‘Daughters of the Heart of Mary’. It is on one of the missions of this order that Dr Ruth coincidentally came to Pakistan and ultimately decided to stay here. After a lifetime of helping leprosy patients, Dr Ruth passed away on 10 August, 2017. There are many reasons why Dr Ruth Pfau truly deserves to be called a national hero of Pakistan.
7 Reasons Why Dr Ruth Pfau Is A National Hero Of Pakistan
1. Dr Ruth defied orders to work for the leprosy patients. According to her profile, she was being sent to a Mission Station in India by her Congregation in 1960. But due to some visa problems she broke journey in Karachi, where she was introduced to the leprosy work. Her first visit to the Leprosy patient’s colony at McLeod Road (now I. I. Chundrigar Road) depressed her so much that she instantly decided to stay in Karachi and help the affected Leprosy patients.
2. She chose to stay and work in Pakistan. Unlike many native Pakistanis who are desperate to leave the country in favor of greener pastures, Dr Ruth chose to serve Pakistani patients. She was a German citizen and could have gone back any time she wanted to, but she did not. Instead, she spent more than 50 years of her life fighting leprosy in Pakistan. When an interviewer asked if she would prefer to work in another country, Dr Ruth replied,
“No. In my life, if there was one correction that I could make, it would be to come to Pakistan three years earlier than I did.”
3. Dr Pfau travelled to various parts of Pakistan to medically facilitate leprosy patients. She did not care about her own convenience or comfort while helping others. Sometimes, she worked in areas where she was not welcomed, or where there were no medical facilities. Dr Ruth chose to keep working even in the face of possible violence.
4. She worked with the government to establish institutes for the treatment and eradication of leprosy. By 1971, she had completed the network of treatment and control units in the Leprosy affected Provinces (Balochistan, Sindh, NWFP), Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir in collaboration with the governments of these provinces. Dr Ruth was appointed Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, by the Government of Pakistan in 1979.
5. It was due to her untiring efforts that in leprosy was controlled in Pakistan in 1996. The number of patients undergoing treatment fell from 19,398 in the early 80’s to 531 in 2016.
6. Dr Ruth established the Mary Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC). It has been working for leprosy elimination, TB and blindness control and Community Development for the last 56 years. Patients from all over Pakistan and even Afghanistan come to the center for treatment.
7. Dr Ruth Pfau got many national and international awards for her services to Pakistani victims of leprosy. But she valued the lives of her patients more than any award or distinction. According to the staff at Mary Adelaide Centre,
“There had been tough times at the MALC when Dr Pfau would sell some of her awards in exchange for money for her patients. The awards meant nothing to her if her patients were suffering.”
Pakistan has lost one of its most humane and compassionate citizens. The death of Dr Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau has left a huge void that may not be filled any time soon. Those in the corridors of power may forget her services, but for the thousands of leprosy patients that she cured, Dr Pfau was indeed a miracle-worker. The poor, sick, blind and elderly will never forget the German lady who held Pakistan dearer than many of its native citizens. She will always remain a national hero of Pakistan.