The Leprosy work was started in 1956 by a group of ordinary people in the slum quarters of McLeod Road behind the present JANG press. The leading names of the first volunteer group were Mrs. Beatrix Menezes, Sr. Bernice Vargas, Dr. Anne Rochs and Sr. Mary Doyale. The living condition of the Lepers Colony was sub-human. There were no proper drugs to treat Leprosy, no facilities, no electricity, no water but a small dispensary which the group had established with the help of wooden crates, sewage water mixed with all the garbage and stench overflowing from the open drains and the long lines of people who had lost their dignity because of being affected by Leprosy, and to add to the sorrow were some patients whose hands and feet became nutritional supplements for rats. Despite all these challenges the group started the fight against Leprosy. The group used to conduct all their work from the dispensary. Help used to come, in the form of bandages and food for patients from various donor agencies.
In 1960, Dr. Ruth Pfau arrived and joined the core group. On her very first visit to the Leprosy patients’ colony, she got depressed with the situation and ultimately decided to stay in Pakistan to help the affected Leprosy patients. She quickly reorganized the rough-hewn dispensary into a proper hospital building – a full service Leprosy treatment and rehabilitation center, free to patients.
As the news of the work spread, there were some doctors who came forward and offered their voluntary services at regular intervals, amongst them was Dr. Zarina Fazelbhoy, who till 1997 was associated with us in our work and very active with fund raising activities of the Centre. Due to her serious illness was unable to continue and expired in February 1999. We are ever grateful for her contribution to the cause of Leprosy.
Dr. Pfau visualized the need to establish a Leprosy hospital in order to cater to the needs of the many patients visiting the dispensary. With the help of funds from Germany in 1963 a small clinic was acquired in Saddar area close to the Passport Office. While shifting dispensary to Saddar we met a lot of opposition from the neighbours due to the stigma of Leprosy in the society but thanks to the persistence of Dr. Pfau and our supporters like Dr. Zarina the small start in a one storied building mushroomed into a 8 storied Medical Building.
In 1968, Dr. Pfau persuaded the Government of Pakistan to undertake a National Leprosy Control Programme in partnership with MALC and began setting up Leprosy-control centers across the country. Today, Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre is the hub of 157 Leprosy control centers, with over eight hundred staff members.
In 1996, Leprosy was controlled in Pakistan. The prevalence of the disease reduced to the extent that the World Health Organization declared the disease to be under control in Pakistan, one of the first countries in EMRO Region to achieve this goal.
After controlling Leprosy, we moved to Leprosy elimination taking along other health disciplines like TB and Blindness control to utilize the free capacity and ensure presence in the field for Leprosy. The strategy was termed as Triple Merger. While implementing the new strategy, it was soon clear that even this falls short of the need of the affected population group, and the program was further developed into “ELCP”= Extended Leprosy Control Program in 2002. First trials with community empowerment proved successful, thus opening the road to Community Development – a vision for future growth and sustainability of the programme.
From Leprosy to Community Development – the journey is on…