Dr. Ruth Pfau was a chosen one, she left her home and came to Pakistan, made this country her home and treated the untouchables. Yes! untouchables the Leprosy patients, most stigmatized, she not only treated them with medicines but with respect as well. Her vision was not only to treat the disease but to fight the stigma attached with Leprosy also. She was able to control the disease in 1996, 4 years a head of the WHO target, a feat in itself as the country of her heart became the first nation in EMRO region to control the disease.
With the control of Leprosy, Dr. Pfau diversified the programme she was running as she had the structure and outreach all across Pakistan. Along with Leprosy, she started working for blindness and TB control as well and later on Mother and child health and education in the underprivileged communities. She has worked tirelessly until she was hospitalized for a short period of time before her death.
I was going on an official tour to Turbat and at coastal highway we made a stop at one of the roadside dhabba (café) for tea. The owner of the dhabba came out and met with the team and asked us about Dr. Pfau, respectfully calling her amma. During my tenure at MALC, I have met many people whose lives have been touched by Dr. Pfau. She was someone who weaved magic with her words and who was able to relate to people of all ages be it children, youth or elderly.
She used to say that never in her life while she was active in the field she has slept in a bed for more than two nights, her schedule kept her on the go to the far-flung areas of Pakistan. She was more Pakistani than any of us who are born over here. She adopted the country of her residence as her own and she used to say “Pakistan meray Dil ka mulk hai”.
She has touched many lives during her lifetime all across the country. She has travelled the country on camel backs, on foot and even in busses to track down the Leprosy patients in the difficult terrain of Sindh, Baluchistan, KPK, Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir. She has created an institution where no one is discriminated on the basis of gender, caste, colour or religion her organization is a living example of inter faith harmony where everyone is treated equally.
People like Dr. Pfau are born in centuries, they lead an exemplary life and leave a path which needs to be followed. Her life is an example that if you have a will to do something you can do it. All you need is, to have perseverance and a clear vision. My take from working alongside her is that you need to put in your effort wholeheartedly all the things get aligned if you are doing it with good intention. Besides this, her philosophy was to keep on doing the work without blowing the trumpet and let your work speak for yourself.