Like Mother Teresa, the ethnic Albanian nun who became known as “the saint of the gutters” for her service to the destitute of India, Dr. Pfau lived among the people she cared for and by a vow of poverty. However, they gave full credit to Dr. Ruth Pfau who helped them and made positive changes in their lives through her inspirational personality.
He said before Dr Pfau’s death, it had been decided that her funeral would be held on the second Saturday after her demise, as people from Pakistan and from overseas were expected to attend. Speaking to the BBC in 2010, she recalled watching a young man as 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”. According to the BBC, she began rescuing children who were disfigured by leprosy who had been forced to live in cattle pens and caves, bringing them to clinics set up around the nation. The government of Pakistan bestowed her with Sitara-e-Pakistan, Hilal-e-Pakistan and Hilal-e-Imtiaz for her invaluable contributions.
In his condolence message, Hussain said that Dr Pfau had left her homeland and settled in Pakistan to serve humanity. She founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan’s first hospital dedicated to treating the disease, which today has 157 branches across the country. She led the country to be declared by the World Health Organization as first Asian country to have controlled leprosy in 1996. “Leprosy elimination is successfully being achieved; however, elimination is not the end of leprosy”, said Pfau at the time.
In 1961, Sister Pfau travelled to India where she was trained in the treatment and management of leprosy.
Faisal Edhi, the head of Edhi Foundation, a leading humanitarian organisation established by renowned social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1951, praised Dr. Pfau, calling her “a great person, a selfless health worker, and a leading humanitarian”. “We are like a Pakistani marriage”.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced a state funeral for Dr Pfau, who, despite originally being from Germany, made eliminating leprosy from Pakistan her life’s mission. “It was an arranged marriage because it was necessary”.
Indeed, like Mother Teresa, Dr. Ruth Pfau helped and supported the unloved and uncared people with sheer dignity. Her funeral is scheduled for August 19 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi. “We will remember her for her courage, her loyalty, her service to the eradication of leprosy, and most of all, her patriotism”. It said her services for humanity “were nothing less than a pure manifestation of God’s divine love”.