Sister Ruth Pfau, a German-born Catholic missionary who devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan, died Thursday at the age of 87. For over five decades, this incredible woman travelled all over Pakistan - and even areas of Afghanistan - to rescue patients who had been abandoned or worse: locked away like monsters. "Actually the first patient who really made me decide was a young Pathan", she told Lobel. Our history is a history of immigration and courage and much more kindness than we could have ever expected from complete strangers. In recognition of her services the Government of Pakistan has announced a state funeral for the German physician, also regarded as one of the most visionary social activists in Pakistan. "He must have been my age, I was at this time not yet 30, and 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".
She said leprosy remained a problem in Pakistan from the 1950s until about 1996 and that Pfau played a key role in efforts by Pakistan and the World Health Organization to bring the disease under control.
After a brief stint in India, she returned to Pakistan, where she lived and worked the rest of her life.
The passing of Dr Ruth Pfau was a blow to Pakistan's medical and humanitarian community - as well it should be. She set up the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre for patients' care, where in the early 1980s almost 20,000 leprosy patients were under treatment in the country.
Indeed, like Mother Teresa, Dr. Ruth Pfau helped and supported the unloved and uncared people with sheer dignity.
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussein said Sister Ruth's dedication to ending leprosy in Pakistan "cannot be forgotten". Her death is indeed a great loss for the entire nation. "It was an arranged marriage because it was necessary", she told Lobel. She came to Pakistan in 1960 and in 1988 she was granted Pakistani citizenship.
Lobel reports that it took some effort on Pfau's part to get the government to cooperate with her anti-leprosy efforts, but she eventually got its cooperation and was named the nation's federal advisor on leprosy. She spent more than a half century of public service and finally went on his eternal journey. Another book by Sister Pfau, titled The Last Word is Love: Adventure, Medicine, War and God, will be available in November.
Salwa Zainab, a spokeswoman at Pfau's office, said Friday a funeral service will be held August 19 in Karachi, where Pfau died on Thursday.