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

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By Syed Raza Hassan

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - German-born nun Ruth 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.

Widely known as Pakistan's Mother Teresa, 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. He announced a state funeral would be held on Aug. 19 in recognition of her services.

Born in 1929, Dr Ruth Katharina Martha Pfau had been living in Pakistan since 1960. 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.

In 1996, the World Health Organisation 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.

(Writing by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alister Doyle)

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