MUSC’s Dr. Suffrant Says We Must Help The People of Haiti

by By Larry D. Smith, Publisher

Dr. Germina Suffrant, an OB/GYN at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina, knows first-hand what Haitians have experienced over the past two months: the assassination of President Jovenel Moïses, Hurricane Elsa, and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. All of these disasters hit this island country, lacking good law and order policies and good sanitation systems. In fact, Haiti has the lowest level of access to clean drinking water in the Americas, making it challenging to treat cholera, a water-borne disease that Dr. Suffrant believes came after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010.

Dr. Suffrant, who was born in Haiti and lived there until she was seven years old, still has family members living in a country with few natural resources and a present-day caste system where Mulattoes rule and Noirs are the underclass. Dr. Suffrant said, “I remember when I was six, and my grandmother came home after finally seeing a doctor for cancer. She tried to treat herself with cloths that turned bloody because she had nothing else to use. In Haiti, because of the lack of financial resources, very few people have the money to see a doctor. That was the day I decided that I would become a doctor.” After her grandmother died, Dr. Suffrant moved to New Jersey as an undocumented immigrant, where she joined her mother and father, who were also undocumented when they entered the United States before her. She went on to recall the pain of living in Haiti as a country with some of the worst sanitation systems in the Americas. It affects not only people’s health, but also their ability to find a job or get an education in an island country of over 10 million people.

Dr. Suffrant, who has traveled all over the Caribbean, said she hasn’t been able to travel to the place she believes is the most beautiful in the Caribbean—Haiti. Her last trip to Haiti was after the 2010 earthquake, but she has remained very much in touch with family members in her home country. “I talk with family members often and they share their sense of hopelessness,” said Dr. Suffrant. In Haiti, many residents live in fear of both natural disasters and the lack of a system that can support the residents’ basic needs.

Haiti is a country where natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes worsen the already bad situations of a lack of jobs, poor sanitation systems, high crime rates, and corruption. Compounding the residents’ woes is the caste system that rewards the Mulattoes—and not the Noirs—with jobs and business opportunities. In this system, for a person from the underclass to get a job, they have to be sponsored by someone from the Mulatto class and speak French, the Haitian national language. However, for those in the underclasses who have not had the opportunity to attend public schools, their native language is Creole, and Dr. Suffrant said most of these uneducated people can’t get a job in most places if they speak only Creole.

Still, Haiti is home for Dr. Suffrant and the millions of Haitians living in the United States, including those in South Carolina. So, she, like many others, would like to help in Haiti’s time of greatest need. “I know they need more than money after the loss of the president, Hurricane Elsa,

and the earthquake. They need personal items, medicines, clothes, clean water, and sanitation equipment. But, in a country with so much corruption, who can you trust to get supplies to those who need them the most? Even some international relief organizations have failed to get goods and services where they need to go.” So, because Dr. Suffrant has contacts on the ground in Haiti, we asked her to suggest how and where we can help.

If you would like to support the Haitian people in their time of great need, these organizations below have shown they can provide direct access. You can also go to our website where we have posted banners for each organization.