Sunday, September 24th, 2017
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In the early 1960s when leprosy was rampant in Pakistan, there came an angel in the form of Dr Ruth Pfau. Then a young nun of Daughters of Heart of Mary order, she was in Karachi and happened to visit the Lepers' Colony on the I. I. Chundrigar Road. She was overwhelmed by the sight of so many people lying almost uncared and abandoned even by their near and dear ones. She decided not to return home, in Germany. Since then she stayed on in Pakistan, founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre, brought the number of lepers from 19,398 in early 1980s to 513 in 2016 and won Pakistan the distinction of a leprosy-free country in the region. She died Thursday morning at the age of 88, and will be given a state funeral. What a loss to the poor, needy and helpless in Pakistan - this has happened within a year of death of another angel-like human being, Abdul Sattar Edhi. Both Abdul Sattar Edhi and Dr Ruth Pfau set examples of total, unstinting commitment to the cause of humanity. And for that they rose above parochial, ethnic and sectarian inhibitions and constraints. Till Dr Ruth Pfau came on the scene, leprosy was not only a crippling physical disability but also a touch-me-not socio-cultural stigma. Leprosy was first a curse and then a disease. Dr Pfau fought this mindset both at clinical and socio-cultural levels. She undertook visits to areas far and beyond and rendered help to leprosy patients. She also founded the National Leprosy Control Programme that also treated patients suffering from tuberculosis - another disease that too thrived in poor, backward sections of society. In her death, Pakistan has lost a pioneer who stood up to the most menacing challenge of the time and won. She was to the ordinary people, as somebody said, "the beating heart and nation's conscience." She has left behind an endearing legacy of selfless service and dedicated teammates who will not betray the people's confidence in their commitment to the cause of carrying forward her lifetime mission.



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