Woman Religious in Pakistan Honored for Work with Lepers

Dr. Ruth Pfau Receives Public Service Award

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ROME, AUG. 30, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Dr. Ruth Pfau, a Catholic woman religious who led the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center in Pakistan for many years, was honored by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation with the most prestigious prize in Asia in the field of social service.

Dr. Pfau was honored along with five other people from Burma, India, Korea, Nepal and the Philippines. The presentation ceremony was held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The awarding jury said Dr. Pfau was chosen for “her lifelong dedication to eradicating leprosy and its stigma in Pakistan, and other loving gifts to her adopted country.”

The Ramon Magsaysay Award was established in 1957 to honor the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president.

The Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center in Karachi, directed by Dr. Pfau, is the pioneering force behind the Leprosy-Tuberculosis-Blindness Control Program in Pakistan. It is currently intensifying the control of leprosy by specially planned “Regional Elimination Campaigns.”<br>
“The Leprosy Team is looking toward a diversified future full of challenges, in which they will utilize their 30-40 years experience of successful work with the community in additional related fields, without forgetting their first and foremost commitment,” the religious sister told the APP agency.

In statements to the Pakistani press, Dr. Pfau explained the center’s program for the elimination of leprosy before 2020.

“Stress will be laid on reaching the rehabilitation-targets and especially awareness of the diseases tackled,” she said. During 2000, in the rural programs, a total of 153,630 patients were attended to for the major blinding conditions, Dr. Pfau explained.

She pointed out that leprosy in Pakistan was found in a markedly focal pattern. The original dominance of the disease was well known, ranging from 35 cases per 1,000 people (Mirpur Mathelo in Sukkur district) to 0.1 per 10,000 and below in Punjab.

In 1960, Dr. Pfau, a young German doctor, stopped in Karachi en route to India, where she was being sent to a mission station by the Congregation of the Heart of Mary. Because of a visa problem, she broke her journey in Karachi and was introduced to the leprosy work carried out there by other nuns of her congregation.

On her first visit to the leper colony, she became so depressed with the situation that she resolved on the spot to join the group working with the patients.

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