Dr Ruth Pfau – A Symbol of Selflessness
Just before Pakistan`s 70th independence day, we have lost a a symbol of selflessness and devotion and the ray of hope for the leprosy patients. Renowned social worker Dr Ruth Pfau, , passed away at the age of 87 in Karachi on August 10, 2017.
Dr. Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau was born in Leipzig, Germany on 9 September 1929. She had four sisters and one brother. After World War II when the Russians occupied East Germany she escaped to West Germany along with her family and chose medicine as her future career. She became member of the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary, who has devoted the last 50 years of life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan, and visited Pakistan in 1960 on her way to India. She was deeply touched by the severe suffering of the leprosy patients in Pakistan and decided to stay back. Due to their efforts in 1996, Pakistan was declared by the World Health Organization to have controlled leprosy, one of the first countries in Asia to achieve this goal.
In 1979, she was awarded the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian award of the country and was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988. In 1989, due to her services Dr Ruth was presented with another award, the Hilal-i-Pakistan.
Dr Pfau traveled to various parts of Pakistan to medically facilitate leprosy patients, a journey she tremendously enjoyed because a marked difference in the patients’ condition began to appear overtime. She introduced an innovative medical approach that allowed a systematic and efficient delivery of health services and her untiring efforts have resulted in leprosy being almost completely eradicated from Pakistan.
She gave her life to this country, went to the unheard and far flung areas of Pakistan and was a light to the leprosy patients.
1969: Order of Merit (Germany)
1969: Sitara i Quaid i Azam
2002: Ramon Magsaysay Award
April 2003: Jinnah Award for 2002.
2004: Doctor of Science (DSc), honoris causa. Aga Khan University, Karachi.
2010: Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam for public service.
2015: Staufer Medal by German Government, its highest order of merit for service to the state.
Cover Photo by Hubert Burda Medien.