Dr. Ruth Pfau no more but the journey continues. . .

Salwa Zainab

KARACHI: Back in July 2016; we received the news of Abdul Sattar Edhi’s sad demise. As part of MALC back then, I recall that, we held a small prayer for Edhi sb in our conference room, Dr. Pfau said, “the news has affected us – – -” One of the team members asked her, Do you think we should pray for him?? And I still recall her bewildered reaction, Why?? And everyone in the room was unable to understand. After a brief pause she elaborates and said because he went straight to heaven!!! She went on to add that Edhi’s gain has been Pakistan’s loss. We needed him, we do need him, not to lose hope that Pakistan still can, can have dreams, which can become reality. She further added that to keep Edhi’s dreams and his memory alive, we make Edhi’s dream a reality. We want Edhi’s dream replicated and think of all our sisters and brothers in need!” A visionary’s tribute to a visionary…a befitting tribute to a great humanitarian by another humanitarian…
Later in August 2017, in the same room we held a small prayer again and this time it was for Dr. Ruth Pfau, she passed away on 10th August, 2017. I still remember as part of management we were thinking of how we will make arrangements for the workers, MALC’s foot soldiers who will be coming over to pay their last respects to their mentor. But as her funeral was announced I have seen her team united, nobody cared about the arrangements they were there for her as any of her family member would have been. The seven-storey hospital in Karachi was crowded with patients and her team was grief stricken, work never stopped at the centres or the hospital. As everybody remembered that she used to say “no matter how grief stricken our teams should be, the work must go on.”
Almost sixty years ago, when she had landed in Karachi, no one knew that this pretty young doctor from Germany will become the driving force to control leprosy in the country: a disease with unparalleled stigma. She used to say “I don’t believe in talking, I believe in doing. When you work, others will look at you and start to work too…..you need to set good examples and trust me they will always follow.” And this, she displayed by virtually spending her entire life in Pakistan, working for the chosen cause. It was a gigantic task to control a disease like leprosy, but Dr. Pfau not only started a nationwide program to control Leprosy but did so four years ahead of WHO target in 1996.
Dr. Pfau used to say that I was able to do what I did because I loved doing it every day. With her dedication she was able to bring many out of darkness and accordingly was able to create a dedicated and committed team who worked tirelessly along with her.
Dr. Pfau firmly believed in that there is no human being who can do nothing; she said that set good examples and people will follow. It is absolutely true that it is fate God guides you and if he finds someone who can do it, he will just push you and pull you and make you do it she was the chosen one.
Dr. Pfau has spent over half a century in a land unknown to her and was more Pakistani than most of us. She has been to places where no one would have thought or even thinks of travelling. She never cared for worldly means, in her younger days she used to travel by public transport where available. Such was a dedication of Dr. Pfau that, in difficult terrains of Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir she has commuted on camel backs, donkeys and even walked for miles to check a patient.
It was a heart wrenching scene at Dr. Pfau’s funeral last year when people from the nook and corner came to say final goodbye to their hero. The funeral gave a picture of united Pakistan the church was showing harmony and the vision to behold, as persons from all walks of life were there to honor a person, who though was born in a foreign land but was more Pakistani than majority of us. Dr. Pfau led her life with a mission to treat everyone with dignity and without any discrimination. She used to stress upon the importance of work with due quality and ethics.
As we are observing her 1st death anniversary, to keep her legacy alive we need to keep on working towards betterment of Pakistan. We should strive to make Dr. Pfau’s and Edhi’s dream a reality and help those who need our help. Dr. Pfau has left behind a legacy of humanitarianism, love, compassion, commitment and team work with her own humbleness and humility.
During her work, she touched many lives; not just leprosy patients and their families but a sizeable team of leprosy field workers, whom she always used to acknowledge for all successes. And it was heartening to see that her students from all corners of Pakistan came to pay their last respects to their beloved teacher and mentor on her final journey to eternal abode. The work which she has started will go on as she once said “The future is intact, as the spirit moves on.”

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