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February 07 2000

Pakistan´s president has called for a continuing campaign to free the country of leprosy and tuberculosis in the 21st century and commended a nun for her dedicated service to contain the two diseases.

Speaking at a function in Islamabad Jan. 30 to mark the 47th World Leprosy Day, President Rafiq Tarar said that leprosy was "under control in Pakistan but this does not mean that we may become complacent."

He praised Daughters of the Heart of Mary Sister Ruth Pfau, a German medical doctor-nun who built up the National Leprosy Control Program in Pakistan, for working not only for those afflicted with leprosy, but also for those with TB.

Sister Pfau in her speech said that 25,000 leprosy patients were treated every year in Pakistan.

Tarar noted that the German Leprosy Relief Association supported the leprosy program as well as the country´s campaign against tuberculosis.

About 24,000 TB patients and more than 80,000 eye patients have been provided treatment at three Leprosy Control Centres being run with the support of the German association, Sister Pfau said.

Tarar emphasized the need to continue the program, and noted that further cooperation and shared expertise would give the sick and the disabled the best possible medical treatment. He appealed to the international community to continue its support for the program to prevent blindness and TB.

Carle Parsel, representative of the German Leprosy Relief Association, said that the association would launch five TB control projects in Sindh, along with a health education and awareness campaign program in Karachi.

Sister Pfau said Pakistan has controlled leprosy according to the standards of the WHO (World Health Organization) in 1996.

However, as long as there were people affected by leprosy, the fight against the disease would go on. At the same time, there was also the need to provide treatment for TB and eye diseases, she emphasized.

Health Minister Abdul Malik Kasi in his speech said the ministry was in the process of converting the National Leprosy Board into the National Leprosy, Blindness and TB Control Board.

He said there were 20,000 leprosy patients in the country when the Leprosy Control Program started in 1961 and this number had been brought down to the desired WHO level.

Later, President Tarar awarded shields, gold medals and certificates to those who have given their services to the control of leprosy in the country for more than 25 years.

The Leprosy control program in Pakistan was pioneered by two Daughters of the Heart of Mary sisters in 1956.

The Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre, the headquarters of the program, was formally launched in 1961 and has since provided professional service to leprosy and TB patients.



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