Pakistanis are mourning the death of Ruth Pfau, a German nun and doctor who spent over 50 years treating lepers in the country.

German-born nun Ruth Pfau attends a press conference at Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan, January 25, 2014.
German-born nun Ruth Pfau attends a press conference at Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan, January 25, 2014.

German-born nun Ruth Katharina Martha Pfau, who devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan, died on Thursday in the southern city of Karachi, a hospital official said. She was 87.

Pfau was eulogised by the prime minister and army chief for her contributions towards freeing the country of a contagious disease that can cause disfigurement.

"Pfau may have been born in Germany, her heart was always in Pakistan," Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in a statement.

Her death was commemorated by Pakistanis, who offered words of remembrance and condolence through social media.

The fourth of five daughters, Pfau was born in Leipzig in 1929. After World War II, she and her family fled the Russian occupation to West Germany where she became a Catholic and studied medicine.

She later joined a religious order, which sent her to India. However, because of problems in obtaining a visa for India, she stopped in Karachi in 1960 and never left, starting to treat leprosy patients

In 1963 she founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan's first hospital dedicated to treating the disease, and opened branches across the country.

"It was due to her endless struggle that Pakistan defeated leprosy," German Consulate Karachi posted on Facebook.

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In 1996, the World Health Organization declared that leprosy had been controlled in Pakistan, which led Pfau to the more challenging task of eliminating the disease.

Last year, the number of patients under treatment for leprosy fell to 531 from 19,398 in the 1980s, the Dawn newspaper said.

She was awarded the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the second-highest civilian honour in Pakistan.

She is to be buried on Sunday at a Christian cemetery in Karachi, Pakistan.

Source: TRT World