Dr. Ruth Pfau, a German-born doctor who dedicated her life to eradicating leprosy from Pakistan, was laid to rest at Karachi’s Gora Kabristan this past weekend. She passed away on August 10th after a prolonged illness at the age of 87.
Dr. Ruth left her home country of Germany in late 1950s. From then onward she spent almost half a century treating leprosy patients and tending to the most vulnerable of people. Her humanitarianism and selfless nature led people to title her as the ‘Mother Teresa of Pakistan’ and she received Pakistani citizenship in 1988. Her entire life, she was involved in various humanitarian services. But a lot of people don’t really know her whole story. Here is a look at Dr. Ruth Pfau’s life in pictures.
1. She was born in Germany in 1929
Dr. Pfau was born on September 9, 1929, as Ruth Katharina Martha Pfau into a Protestant family in Leipzig, Germany. That was the time when post-World War I tension was running high in Europe. When the Soviet’s occupied East Germany, she escaped with her family to West Germany and, during the 1950s, studied medicine at the University of Mainz.
2. A twist of fate brought her to Pakistan
Despite being born into a Protestant family, Dr. Ruth Pfau became a Catholic Christian after forming a close bond with a woman who was a concentration camp survivor. In 1957 she joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary which sent her on a mission to south India. When a problem occurred with her visa, she found herself stuck in Karachi. That is when she made the bold decision to stay back and work for the people of Pakistan.
3. She dedicated her life to treating leprosy patients
Dr. Ruth Pfau soon joined Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center in Karachi. With her intense dedication, she brought in a lot of donors and expanded the network of the Leprosy Center to 157 centers that have since treated over 50,000 patients.
4. She was actively involved in other humanitarian causes too
Dr. Ruth did not limit herself to serving lepers only. She reached out to donors in Pakistan, Germany, and Austria to get funding. Her Leprosy Center and its satellite clinics provided services in the terrible Balochistan drought of 2000, the drastic 2005 earthquake, and the floods of 2010.
5. Pakistan’s top civilian honors were bestowed upon her
Her selfless acts of humanitarianism brought her numerous awards, including the country’s top honors Hilal-i-Imtiaz and Hilal-i-Pakistan which she received in 1989 and 2010 respectively.
6. Kidney and Heart diseases led to her eventual death
Her health had been deteriorating for a while now. On August 10, 2017, she passed away at a local hospital in Karachi owing to complications related to kidney and heart diseases.
7. She was given a state funeral
Dr. Ruth Pfau was laid to rest on August 19th, 2017 following a state funeral. She is one of the only three Pakistani people, and the first Christian person, to have received this honor. The others include late philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi and General Zia-ul-Haq. Her funeral was attended by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, other government officials and high-ranked army personnel.