n 1960 a 31 years old Ruth Pfau was out visiting the city railway station in Karachi. It was the time of a great leprosy outbreak in Asia and the area Dr. Pfau was visiting was restricted to the patients of Hansen’s disease only. Her visa issue only meant she could stay a few days in Karachi but something about that visit caused her to make the decision of devoting her entire life for these people in Pakistan.
Dr. Pfau was a Catholic nun of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, and a physician who started her struggle against leprosy by setting up a clinic in the Lepers’ Colony of Karachi where she took care of her patients. During this time, she also initiated a training program for doctors and grabbed the attention of foreign funding for this cause. With time she was able to build small clinics all across the country which finally led to the creation of Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center (MALC), a department which within two years became the heart of around 157 medical centers and provided treatment to over thousands of leprosy patients under the supervision and guidance of Dr. Pfau. It was due to her efforts that in 1996, WHO declared Pakistan as the first Asian country to control leprosy when it was reported that the number of cases dropped from 19,398 to 531.
Dr. Pfau was awarded the citizenship of Pakistan in 1988. She continued to serve the country by traveling to remote areas and providing care to people deprived of medical facilities. For her dedicated efforts, the country awarded her with numerous honors including the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam, and Hilal-i-Pakistan. Dr. Pfau died on the morning of 10th of August 2017 due to her own ailing health and was buried in a state funeral in Karachi. Her remarkable legacy and tremendous services to this country can’t ever be forgotten.