Arns on June 1, 2004
25 August 1934|
Forquilhinha, Santa Catarina, Brazil
|Died||12 January 2010
|Profession||Pediatrician, Health care provider|
A sister of Cardinal Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns, the former Archbishop of São Paulo known for his efforts against the Brazilian military dictatorship, Zilda Arns became internationally known by founding a Catholic pastoral care for poor children. Her humanitarian work, which also included the poor and the elderly, spanned over three decades.
Two of Arns' memories were of seeing her father go door-to-door on his horse to help contain a smallpox epidemic and watching her mother arrange for a sick neighbour to be taken to the nearest hospital on the back of a cart, a journey of three hours. Those acts inspired her contemplate life as a doctor, even most of her priests or teachers.
Having studied medicine, she graduated from university in 1959, UFPR - Federal University of Paraná, working in local hospitals tending to infants; she was then given charge of a string of clinics on the impoverished outskirts of the southern city of Curitiba.
Arns was the founder coordinator of Pastoral da Criança (Pastoral Care for Children), an organ for social action of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil. The Care for Children has one of the largest programs in the world devoted to child health and nutrition. The pro has about 260,000 volunteers and has reduced infant mortality by more than half in over 31,000 urban and rural communities of intense poverty.
Arns also coordinated Pastoral da Pessoa Idosa (Pastoral Care for Elderly Persons), and social action organisms of the Episcopal Conference of Brazil.
Widowed since 1978, a mother of five and grandmother of nine, she was awarded with several honorary citizen titles throughout Brazil. She was also recognized as a Public Health Heroe by Pan American Health Organization
Holder of a degree in medicine, Arns further studied public health, with the aim of assisting poor children in environments plagued with high child mortality rates, malnutrition and violence. As a Catholic, Arns condemned contraception. Her approach was based on familial education in order to help decrease the rates of petty crime and preventable diseases.
Arns was killed by the Haiti earthquake of 12 January 2010 in Port-au-Prince, where she was carrying out humanitarian activities on behalf of Pastoral da Criança. She was struck in the head by falling debris from the roof of a church in which she had just given a speech. She was 75 years old at the time. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attended her funeral.
- Legendary Brazilian aid worker among the victims of Haiti earthquake
- Folha Online – Mundo – Fundadora da Pastoral da Criança, Zilda Arns morre em tremor no Haiti (Portuguese)
- Câmara reúne alemães em sessão solene
- Zilda Arns – The Daily Telegraph obituary
- Statement by Doctor Zilda Arns Neumann, national founder and coordinator of the Pastoral Care for Children
- Pan American Health Organization. Public Health Heroes. Dr. Zilda Arns Newmann.
- Haiti Earthquake, the Day After from UN Dispatch
Media related to Zilda Arns at Wikimedia Commons