By Robin Gomes
Google on Monday paid homage to Sr. Ruth Pfau, the German-born Catholic nun credited with eradicating leprosy or Hansen’s disease from Pakistan. The tech giant marked the revered nun on her 90th birth anniversary with a Doodle.
A Google Doodle is a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google's homepages intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures.
The doodle depicts the German-Pakistani doctor, tending to a patient. Google said it was honouring her she "devoted herself to eradicating leprosy from Pakistan, saving countless lives".
Widely known as “Pakistan's Mother Teresa”, Sr. Pfau died on Aug. 10, 2017, at age 87, after being admitted to Karachi’s Aga Khan Hospital a few days earlier suffering from old age complications. She was laid to rest in Karachi on 19 August, following full state honours, including a 19-gun salute, for her priceless service.
Born on Sept. 9, 1929, in Leipzig, Sr. Ruth Pfau studied medicine in the1950s at the universities of Mainz and Marburg in then West Germany. After her graduation, she joined the religious order of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, which sent her as a missionary to India.
On her way, she stopped in Karachi on March 8, 1960, and was held up because of some visa problem. It was here that she became involved in working with people affected by leprosy or Hansen’s Disease.
In 1961 she went to Vellore, South India to acquire training in the management of Leprosy. She returned to Karachi to organize and expand the Leprosy Control Programme. Her Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan's first hospital dedicated to treating the disease, today has 157 branches across the country, that have helped more than 56,000 leprosy patients.
Sr. Pfau has won numerous honours and recognition in Pakistan and abroad for her humanitarian services. Germany awarded her the Order of Merit in 1969. In 1979, the Pakistani government appointed her Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Pakistani government honoured her with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 1979 and the Hilal-e-Pakistan in 1989. She was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988. In 2002 she won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as Asia’s Nobel prize.