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Ibrahim Khan working at his automobile workshop that Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre help set up

Center helps leprosy patients medically, financially

February 19 2010

KARACHI, Pakistan (UCAN) -- A Catholic center, which claims a 98 percent success rate in its treatment of leprosy patients, is also providing material support to families of needy patients.

"Most of our patients are Muslims. We serve [people] of every religion, providing them with opportunities to develop while curing them," said Sister Ruth Pfau of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary congregation.

Her congregation runs the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC), the only Catholic facility for leprosy patients in Karachi, Sindh province.

German-born Sister Pfau has run the center since 1960.

Kamal Khan, a former patient, is full of praise for the center.

He recalled how shocked he was when he discovered that his wife had also contracted the disease.

"Knowing the disease would spread, I took her to the Catholic center which helped her recover in only three months," said Khan, a Muslim.

During his own treatment at the center, staff "provided my wife with a sewing machine … and paid the school fees for my four children several times whenever I asked for help."

Khan, 48, was diagnosed with leprosy in 1997. "I went to several hospitals but things got worse."

He recovered after being treated at MALC for four years and now drives an ambulance earning 7,000 rupees (US$83.33) a month.
Children provided with education
The center also supported Ibrahim Khan in opening an automobile workshop. "Two of my sons were sponsored for their training at St. Patrick's Technical School," said the Muslim man who completed his treatment last year at MALC.

The center says that it has so far treated 53,935 patients, most of whom have been cured.

According to Sister Pfau, "patients are encouraged to pay for the financial assistance provided for opening small scale business," but this is done "over a period of time that suits them."

Government officials say some 60,000 people presently suffer from leprosy in Pakistan, 70 per cent of them in Sindh province. Karachi is said to be home to more leprosy patients than other parts of the country.

"Overcrowding in the city is the major cause and most of the carriers are migrants," a MALC staff member said.

Helping leprosy sufferers has its challenges.

"Funding is one of our biggest problems," said Sister Pfau. "The global financial crisis and the political situation have affected our budget."

The nun was awarded Pakistani citizenship in 1988 in recognition of her service to the country. She plans to celebrate her 50 years in the country next month.

PA08874.1589 February 19, 2010 43 EM-lines (414 words)

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