Dr. Ruth Pfau, a German nun who became known as the “Mother Teresa of Pakistan” for her decades-long ministry to the country’s leprosy patients, a moral and medical campaign that helped curb one of the most stigmatized diseases in human history, died Thursday in Karachi. She was 87.

A spokeswoman, Salwa Zainab, confirmed her death to the Associated Press. The cause was not immediately available.

Pfau, while not widely covered in the Western media, was renowned in Pakistan for her efforts to stop the spread of leprosy, a bacterial infection also called Hansen’s disease that when untreated can cause disfigurement and blindness. Around the world, its victims have often been relegated to “leper colonies” and regarded as outcasts.

The Express Tribune of Pakistan once credited Pfau with having “single-handedly … turned the tide of leprosy in Pakistan and won the gratitude and personal attentions of people ranging from military rulers to elected ministers to the general public.”

Like Mother Teresa, the ethnic Albanian nun who became known as “the saint of the gutters” for her service to the destitute of India, Pfau lived among the people she cared for and by a vow of poverty.

As a young physician and nun waylaid in Karachi with visa difficulties, she visited a leprosy colony and was so distressed by what she saw that she could not bring herself to leave.