Dr Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau is known as a symbol of devotion, commitment, and service to Pakistan. Her untiring efforts brought leprosy under control and Pakistan became the first country in Asia to earn this status.
“I could not believe that humans could live in such conditions,” she had said, remembering her first impressions of a Pakistani leper colony.
Dr Pfau was inspired to become a nun at age 29 after meeting a concentration camp survivor. While travelling to India, she was waylaid in Pakistan by visa issues and paid a life-changing visit to the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Clinic in Karachi.
Also known as Hansen’s disease, leprosy is caused by a bacterial infection that can now be prevented and cured, but the disease has historically caused sufferers to be ostracized and stigmatized for disfiguration.
The German-born missionary was hailed as the “Mother Theresa of Pakistan” by many international organisations.
Google Doodle is honouring her immensely significant contribution to fighting the disease on her 90th birthday.
The Doodle shows an animation of Dr Pfau looking after a leprosy patient as the sun sets behind them. Other concept designs show Dr Pfau outside Karachi’s Marie Adelaide Leprosy Clinic and a portrait of a smiling Dr Pfau against the backdrop of Karachi.
Dr Pfau’s contribution to society was gratefully acknowledged by the people and state during her lifetime. She was awarded Hilal-i- Imtiaz, Nishan-i-Quaid –i-Azam and Hilal-i-Pakistan.
She died at the age of 87 in a hospital in Karachi on August 10, 2017.